A cancer diagnosis in a child is upsetting and alarming for both the child and their parents. It is very natural to panic when your child is diagnosed with cancer, questions like where to go? Who will treat my child? Will my child lead a normal life like other children? And not all questions have answers but the scenario for the childhood cancer patient has fortunately changed. The survival rates have increased dramatically in recent decades. Today the cancer treatment in India has proved to be a boon for many families.
In this article, we will discuss the types of cancer in children, treating childhood cancer, causes of childhood cancer, and coping with cancer.
Types of Cancer in Children
The type of cancer that is more seen in children than in adults are:
- Leukemia: It is a cancer of blood-forming tissues, including bone marrow. The most common types of leukemia cancer seen in children are acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) and acute myeloid leukemia (AML).
- Brain and Spinal cord tumors: A childhood brain or a spinal cord tumor is a disease in which abnormal cells form in the tissues of the brain or spinal cord.
- Neuroblastoma: It is a type of cancer that is found in the small glands on top of the kidneys.
- Wilms tumor: This is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells are found in the kidney and may spread to the lungs, liver, or nearby lymph nodes.
- Lymphoma: It is cancer that begins in infection-fighting cells of the immune system called lymphocytes.
- Rhabdomyosarcoma: It is a type of cancer that forms in soft tissue, specifically skeletal tissue or sometimes hollow organs like the bladder or uterus.
- Retinoblastoma: It is a type of cancer that develops in the retina, which is the specialized light sensitive tissue at the back of the eye.
- Bone Cancer: This type of cancer occurs when a tumor or abnormal mass of tissue forms in a bone.it occurs most often in older children and teens, but they can develop at any age.
Other types of cancer do happen in children but it is rarely seen in children.
What are the various treatment options for cancer in children?
All these treatment options are widely available in almost all the top cancer hospitals in India. The treatments used to treat cancer in children are:
Surgery plays a role both in diagnosing cancer and treatment, especially for solid tumors and lymphomas. The surgeon may first take out a piece of tumor, this procedure is called a biopsy, so the tissue can be tested. From this, the exact type of cancer can be revealed. The surgeons even try to remove as much cancer as possible before, during, and after treatment with the help of surgery.
Radiation therapy uses high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells. The radiation is delivered by a machine that sends high-energy X-rays directly into cancer and this machine is called a linear accelerator. Radiation is not seen but the linear accelerator makes clicking or humming noise during treatment. And sometimes the radiation can temporarily damage healthy tissues around the tumor being treated. The side effects are generally seen after two to three weeks and last for several weeks. But the best oncologist in India makes sure the side effects are well treated before the situation is worse.
Chemotherapy which is also called ‘chemo’, is the use of medicines to help kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy can be given in many ways:
- By mouth
- In the vein
- Into a muscle
- Into the spinal fluid
- Under the skin
At times even the combination of chemotherapy drugs is used together. The length of Chemotherapy depends on the type of cancer and how quickly cancer responds.
Targeted Therapy is sometimes known as molecular therapy or precision medicine works by targeting or destroying cancer’s specific mutated genes, proteins, or surrounding tissue. This type of treatment is also used with other treatments such as chemotherapy.
Immunotherapy involves using medications to help the body’s germ-fighting immune system target and destroy cancer cells. Various types of immunotherapy can treat cancer which includes:
- Monoclonal antibody treatment
- Immune checkpoint inhibitors
- Adoptive cell therapy
- Cancer vaccines
What are the causes of Childhood Cancer?
The causes are yet not known clearly. But it is believed about 5 percent of all cancers in children are caused by an inherited mutation (a genetic mutation that is passed from parents to children).
Most cancers in children are thought to develop as a result of mutations in genes that led to uncontrolled cell growth and eventually cancer. In adults, these gene mutations reflect the cumulative effects of aging and long-term exposure to cancer-causing substances. However, it is very difficult to identify the real cause of cancer in children because children might not have been exposed to most of the things that cause cancer.
How can the family help the child with cancer?
The very first step a family must take is to immediately see the top surgeons to get a second opinion on Cancer in India. Get detailed information on the type of treatment and medications. Children take cues from their parents, so being patient and calm can help you to deal with the child more compassionately. Show your love. Think about how your family has faced difficult times and this too shall pass. Some children will feel better after talking, some will feel better playing games. Learn how your child will feel better and indulge them in those activities.