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Important things to know about childhood cancer

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September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. As millions of children get back-to-school check-ups and return to classrooms, the timing is right to ensure families, educators and community stakeholders know about childhood cancer and are aware of resources and treatment options in their areas. 

Join SIU Medicine in raising awareness about childhood cancer. Read on to learn more and explore some of the health care options we can offer families. 

5 facts about childhood cancers

A cancer diagnosis is scary for anyone, but it’s especially distressing to children and their loved ones. No two children with cancer should be expected to have the exact same experience. But educating yourself and your loved ones about childhood cancer may ease some of your concerns and help you feel more prepared if your child is diagnosed.

Here are five facts to know about childhood cancer.

  1. About 1 in 285 children are diagnosed with cancer before age 20. First- and second-degree relatives of a child with cancer may be more likely to develop cancer too, particularly if there is a family history of cancer.
     
  2. There are more than 100 types of childhood cancers. The most common cancers affecting children under the age of 15 include leukemia, brain and central nervous system tumors, lymphomas, neuroblastoma, kidney tumors and malignant bone tumors.
     
  3. The average age of a child diagnosed with cancer is 8. Because there are no standard screening recommendations for childhood cancers, most children aren't diagnosed until after they start showing symptoms.
     
  4. In most cases, it is never known why a child may develop cancer. Both genes and the environment are thought to play a role in childhood cancer. An inherited genetic mutation or cancer predisposition syndrome plays a role in about 5% of children. 
     
  5. Cancer is the leading disease-related cause of death for children in the United States. However, 85 percent of children with cancer now survive at least five years after getting diagnosed, according to the American Cancer Society. That's a dramatic improvement in survival rates over the past 50 years!

Early warning signs of cancer in children

We can't know for sure if a child has cancer simply by observing their signs and symptoms. A thorough evaluation from an experienced medical team is necessary—not only to rule out other health conditions that can present like cancer, but to ensure that the child receives the correct diagnosis so appropriate treatment can begin as soon as possible. 

Let's review some of the early signs and symptoms of childhood cancer that you should always mention to your pediatrician or other health care provider. 

  • Unusual lumps or swelling
  • Unexplained fatigue or loss of energy
  • Unusually pale skin
  • Easy bleeding or bruising
  • Ongoing pain somewhere in the body, especially if it can't be easily explained
  • Unexplained limping or weakness
  • Unexplained persistent or recurring fever
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Sudden changes in vision
  • Recurring headaches, often with vomiting

Childhood cancer resources close to home: options from SIU Medicine

Childhood cancer rates have been rising over the past few decades. Fortunately, more children are surviving and thriving after cancer than ever before, thanks in large part to advances in diagnosis and treatment.

In February 2022, pediatric oncologist Dr. Greg Brandt sat down with local television station WSIU to discuss some of SIU Medicine’s innovative pediatric cancer care options. Dr. Brandt and his colleague Dr. Clare Zimmerman offer central Illinois families a range of  care options, including advanced chemotherapy techniques and immune-mediated technologies, which use the body's own immune system to eradicate its specific cancer.

SIU Medicine can provide additional targeted and comprehensive solutions for children with cancer, including surgery, radiation, support groups and physical therapy. We rely on the latest innovations in clinical research and expertise to maintaining the highest standard of care for our young patients.

Has your family been impacted by childhood cancer?

If you're a parent or caregiver looking for childhood cancer resources near central and southern Illinois, find a doctor today at SIU Medicine. 

What can you do to help in the fight against childhood cancer? Donate blood (and Impact Life). Enroll in a bone marrow donor registry via BeTheMatch.org. And support your local children’s hospital. 

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