Pediatric Cancer Awareness and Risk Reduction
Because pediatric cancer is uncommon, it’s important for patients to be evaluated and treated by experienced doctors with specialized expertise. UT Southwestern and Children’s Health diagnose and treat young patients from all over the region and country – more than 1,000 new pediatric patients with cancer each year.
Risk Factors of Pediatric Cancer
Not everyone with risk factors will develop pediatric cancer, and people who have no known risk factors can still get pediatric cancer. Risk factors vary depending on the type of pediatric cancer, but general risk factors include:
- Exposure to chemotherapy or radiation exposure for cancer treatment and certain other chemicals
- Genetic syndromes such as Down syndrome, Li-Fraumeni syndrome, Fanconi anemia, and neurofibromatosis
- Immune system suppression treatment for children who have received organ transplants
- Family history of the disease
Symptoms of Pediatric Cancer
Pediatric cancer can be hard to identify because the signs are similar to those of other, more common childhood illnesses. Cancer is usually not the cause of these symptoms.
In general, they include:
- Sluggishness or fatigue
- Unexplained swelling or lump
- Chronic pain in a particular part of the body
- Frequent headaches and/or vomiting
- Ongoing, unexplained fever or illness
- Easy bruising/bleeding
- Sudden weight loss
- Sudden eye or vision changes
Reducing the Risk of Pediatric Cancer
Most cancers are caused by gene mutations that lead to out-of-control cell growth and, ultimately, cancer. In adult cancer, this might be caused by environmental or lifestyle factors such as smoking or ultraviolet radiation exposure from the sun.
In children, however, gene mutations are rarely caused by factors that can be controlled. For this reason, very little can be done to minimize a child’s risk of developing cancer.
Our Cancer Susceptibility Program at Children’s Health is unique in North Texas. This innovative program provides families of children who have an increased likelihood of developing cancer access to the most advanced genetic counseling, ongoing screening, and oncology specialists. We identify children who, due to genetics, are more likely to develop some forms of cancer and watch over them to detect and, if necessary, treat any cancer as early as possible.