Swollen glands and weight loss are early symptoms of childhood cancer, says expert

The most common childhood cancers are leukaemia, brain and other central nervous system tumours, and lymphoma. These cancers account for more than half of all cancers diagnosed in children but only a small percentage of these cancers are diagnosed in adults.

Although a small number of cases of childhood cancers are due to genetic abnormalities, the causes of most childhood cancers are unknown, says Manoj Kumar, consultant paediatrician, KIMS ICON Hospital.

The early symptoms of childhood cancer include fever, feeling tired, swollen glands and weight loss. When these signs and symptoms last or are severe, the doctor may order tests to check for cancer or other illnesses. Depending upon the type and site of tumour, biopsy, bone marrow aspiration and imaging of the tumour (X Ray, ultrasound, CT scan, MRI scan, bone scan, PET scan) are done for confirmation and staging of cancer. Chemotherapy is treatment with drugs to stop or slow the growth of cancer cells. Chemotherapy works by destroying cells that are in the process of dividing. Radiation therapy uses high-energy radiation to destroy cancer cells and shrink tumours. External beam radiation therapy is the most common type of radiation therapy used to treat cancer in children. Surgery is an essential part of treatment for many solid tumours. The type of surgery depends on the type of cancer and location of the tumour, says Dr. Manoj Kumar.

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