What is Childhood Cancer?
Pediatric cancer, also known as childhood cancer, is used to describe any cancer that develops in children and adolescents under the age of 18. Pediatric cancer is different from adult cancers in several ways, including the types of cancer that are most common, the treatment options available, and the long-term effects of treatment. In children as adults, tumors may impede the function of the vital organs they grow on, or next to. It may be especially deadly when these cells ‘spread’ through the lymphatic system or blood vessels, forming new tumors in other parts of the body.
Cancer common to children include leukemia, brain tumors, lymphomas, and sarcomas. Its occurrence is rarer in children as their cells are young and less likely to be damaged. Nonetheless, cancer is a very serious condition when it presents in a child. The causes of pediatric cancer are not yet fully understood, but researchers believe that a combination of genetic and environmental factors may contribute to the development of the disease. These have raised many misconceptions by many trying to understand childhood cancers which will be annihilated in the article.
Common Myths about Childhood Cancer and Corresponding truths
There are several common misconceptions about childhood cancer. These include
Childhood cancer is Rare
While childhood cancer is relatively rare compared to adult cancer, it is still the leading cause of death by disease among children affecting a significant percentage of children globally. Approximately 1 in 285 children will be diagnosed with cancer before the age of 20.
All tumors or lumps are cancerous
There are many other non-cancerous conditions that can also cause lumps, such as cysts or fibroids. While most cancers begin as tumors, not all tumors are cancerous. Tumors can either be benign or malignant. Malignant tumors begin at one part of a cell or tissue and then proceed to spread to distant sites making them more lethal. Benign tumors are isolated growths that remain in the same location in the body.
Childhood cancer is Always Fatal
While childhood cancer can be very serious, many types of childhood cancers have high survival rates, particularly when detected early and treated appropriately.
Childhood cancer is caused by environmental factors
While environmental factors can contribute to cancer risk, most childhood cancers are not caused by environmental factors. In fact, the cause of most childhood cancers is unknown.
Childhood cancer is contagious
Childhood cancer is not infectious and cannot be passed from one person to another. However, children receiving treatments like chemotherapy and radiation therapy are prone to infections by micro-organisms such as bacteria and viruses because of weakened immune systems.
Childhood cancer is always genetic
While some childhood cancers are caused by genetic mutations, most childhood cancers are not caused by inherited genetic factors from the parents. Recent studies have shown that only about 2% of all childhood cancers are hereditary, and that most cancers in children occur due to random mutations.
Alternative therapies can cure cancer
While some alternative therapies may help manage cancer symptoms or side effects of treatment, there is no scientific evidence that they can cure cancer on their own. To avoid putting the live of your child at risks, it is important to seek prompt medical attention to decide the treatment route that is best for your child.
There is no cure for childhood cancer
Most childhood cancers can be treated with a good chance of them eventually being cancer-free especially when detected. Years of medical advancements have now made it possible to apply specific combinations of treatment methods such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy, immunotherapy and surgery to achieve the goal of a cure.
How can childhood cancer be treated?
The most common treatments for childhood cancer include:
- Surgery: Surgery is often used to remove tumors or cancerous cells from the body. The type of surgery used depends on the type and location of the cancer.
- Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. These drugs are usually given intravenously or orally and can be used in combination with other treatments.
- Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy uses high-energy X-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells. It may be used alone or in combination with other treatments.
- Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy is a newer treatment that uses the body's immune system to fight cancer. This treatment works by either boosting the immune system's response to cancer cells or by using genetically modified cells to specifically target and kill cancer cells.
- Stem cell transplant: Stem cell transplant is a treatment that involves replacing damaged bone marrow with healthy cells. This is often used in combination with chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
- Targeted therapy: Targeted therapy is a newer treatment that specifically targets cancer cells with drugs or other agents. This treatment is often used in combination with other treatments.
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