Childhood cancer is thankfully very rare. However, in the UK, around 1,600 children up to the age of 15 are diagnosed with some form of cancer every year. It is highly unusual to be able to detect cancer in a baby before it is born, even though in some cases the cancer may already be present at this stage.
Childhood cancers vary greatly from adult cancers. In adults the most common cancers have to do with the lungs, the bowels and the skin. There is no specific cause for any of the main types of cancer in children, although some may have a genetic association. Initial testing may include blood tests, Ultrasound, MRI and/or CT scans, and in some cases, a biopsy.
The most common cancer in infants is Neuroblastoma, which represents a fifth of cases of cancer in this age group. It develops in the nerve cells called neuroblasts, and most frequently originates in the adrenal glands. It can also develop in nerve cells in the neck, chest, stomach or pelvis.
Leukaemia, a cancer of the blood, is the second most common cancer in the under twos, and is a cancer of the blood. There are two main types of leukaemia; most cases are acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL), the rest acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), although there are other, much rarer forms of leukaemia. The leukaemia will then be separated into subtypes, depending on where the cancer cells originated.
Retino blastoma is a cancer of the eye, which is nearly always detected early and treated. A parent may suspect there is a problem with their child's eye if the "red eye" doesn't appear when they have had their picture taken using flash photography. In the first instance a doctor will refer the child to an eye specialist.
Brain tumour. A brain tumour is when certain cells in the brain start to divide in an uncontrolled way, producing a tumour. The tumour may be referred to as malignant or benign. A malignant brain tumour means that the cancer is faster growing and may spread to other parts of the brain or spinal cord. A benign tumour is much more contained and is unlikely to spread to other parts of the brain. In young children symptoms of a brain tumour often include headache, recurrent vomiting, trouble with balance and coordination, feeling excessively tired, abnormal eye movements, and fits or seizures that don't accompany a temperature.
Wilms Tumour is a type of kidney cancer, which affects children under five more than any other age group. It is named after a doctor called Dr Max Wilms who first identified this type of cancer. Symptoms may include a swollen abdomen where a lump can be felt, even though painless.
"Diagnosis often starts because the parent has a gut instinct that something is amiss," explains Dr Fysh, Chief Medical Officer at NutureFirst. "Symptoms of childhood cancer can include anaemia, bruising easily, being excessively tired, loss of appetite, weight loss, fatigue, candida infections, or septic osteomyelitis, a form of arthritis.
"Treatment is often a combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy and in some cases, surgery. Solid tumours like neuroblastoma or Wilms tumour are largely treated by surgery and radiation therapy."
"Survival rates for childhood cancer have improved quite dramatically over the last 10-20 years, and, as with any form of cancer, early diagnosis increases the chances of recovery."
NurtureFirst Future Family Insurance is a unique policy that provides expectant mothers with added assurance from the 20 week scan* through to their child's second birthday. NurtureFirst aims to ease the financial impact of unforeseen costs that can result from 14 covered conditions - including Cancer.
*NurtureFirst's policy can be accessed following a clear 20 week scan from £9.13 per month.
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