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September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Although Britain has the lowest childhood cancer rate in Europe, more than 10 children are still diagnosed with cancer in the UK every single day - that’s almost 4,000 kids a year. September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

Types of Childhood Cancer

There are many different types of childhood cancer. The most common types include,

  • Acute leukaemias are diagnosed in 1 in 3 children with cancer. Leukaemia is a cancer of the white blood cells and bone marrow. Acute Lymphoblastic leukaemia and acute myeloid leukaemia are the two most common type of childhood leukaemia.
  • Cancers of the brain and spinal cord or central nervous system (CNS) are diagnosed in 1 in 4 children with cancer. CNS tumours are the most common solid tumours in childhood and claim the lives of around 100 children every year in the UK.

Rarer types of children’s cancer include,

  • Lymphoma is a cancer that starts in the lymph glands. The two main types of lymphoma are Hodgkin lymphoma and the more common Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Lymphomas affect around 160 children in the UK every year.
  • Retinoblastoma is a type of rare eye cancer that affects the retina. It only accounts for around 3% of all childhood cancer cases.
  • Neuroblastoma is a cancer of the nerve cells and is the second most common solid tumour in childhood.
  • Wilm’s tumours are a type of renal or kidney cancer. They usually only affect one kidney but in rarer cases will affect both. Around 90 children are diagnosed with renal tumours every year in the UK.
  • Muscle or bone cancers. The two main types of bone tumour diagnosed in childhood are osteosarcoma and Ewings sarcoma. The survival rates for bone tumours are unfortunately very low.

Symptoms of Childhood Cancer

Childhood cancer symptoms can often be very similar to those of other illnesses. The most common symptoms of childhood cancer include,

  • swollen glands;
  • blood in urine or an inability to urinate;
  • persistent back pain; headaches or abdominal pain;
  • an unexplained lump anywhere in the body;
  • constant fatigue;
  • unexplained seizures, vomiting, weight loss or fever;
  • frequent flu-like symptoms.

If your child has been affected by any of the above symptoms for longer than a few weeks it is important they see their GP. According to National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines, children with possible cancer symptoms should be referred to a paediatrician or specialist children’s cancer service ideally, within two weeks.

Treatment for childhood cancer can include surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, immunotherapy and stem cell transplantation. Treatment can be extremely unpleasant and debilitating and usually involves prolonged periods in hospital away from home, often for several months or even years.

Although around eight out of every 10 children with cancer are now successfully treated, childhood cancer remains the leading cause of disease-related death in children and is obviously devastating for everyone concerned. Raising awareness of the issues around childhood cancer through campaigns such as Childhood Cancer Awareness Month is vital to highlight the importance of early diagnosis.

Early diagnosis and the provision of effective treatment for childhood cancer is crucial in improving the chances of survival and recovery. Prolonged delays in diagnosis due to x-rays, scans and tissue samples being misinterpreted are unfortunately not uncommon particularly with brain tumours and certain lymphomas, and where opportunities for diagnosis are missed and the cancer develops to a more advanced stage, any such delays can have a significant impact upon the eventual outcome.

Penny Fitzpatrick is a Senior Clinical Negligence Solicitor with Slater and Gordon Lawyers in London.

Slater and Gordon Lawyers help people who have suffered from delayed or wrong diagnosis of cancer due to Medical Negligence. For a free consultation call our Medical Negligence Solicitors on freephone 0800 916 9049 or start your claim online.


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