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Childhood Cancer Awareness: What Parents and Guardians Should Know

Childhood Cancer Awareness

It’s no secret that kids are prone to minor illnesses (like colds and infections) throughout their childhood. However, some kids face more serious conditions – like cancer.

“While many people think of cancer as an adult disease, it can affect kids as well,” says pediatric hematologist oncologist Jacob Troutman, DO, with Lehigh Valley Reilly Children’s Hospital. “The good news is that childhood cancer is rare, and over the past 50 years, cancer death rates in children and adolescents have decreased significantly due to advances in treatment.”

To raise awareness, Dr. Troutman shares answers to common questions about childhood cancer below:

What types of cancer are diagnosed in children?

The most common types of childhood cancer are:

  • Leukemia, which affects the blood and bone marrow
  • Lymphoma, which affects the immune system
  • Brain and spinal cord tumors

Other cancers can affect children as well. However, they are very rare.

Are there specific risk factors for childhood cancer?

Unlike adults, there are no known lifestyle risk factors for childhood cancer. While some children may be genetically predisposed to developing cancer, most cases are not linked to inherited gene mutations.

“In most instances, we don't know why a child develops cancer,” Dr. Troutman says. “Even if we don’t know the cause, the most important thing is that the medical community has gotten really good at treating these cases.”

What are the most common symptoms of childhood cancer?

While symptoms vary depending on the type of cancer, some of the most common include:

  • An unexplained lump or swelling
  • Excessive bruising or bleeding
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent headaches with vomiting
  • Limping or refusal to walk
  • Paleness
  • Recurring fever
  • Sudden changes in vision
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Unexplained pain
  • Unexplained weight loss

“It’s important to know that while these symptoms can be a sign of cancer, they are often related to less serious conditions,” Dr. Troutman says. “The best thing to do if your child is experiencing any of these symptoms is to make an appointment with their pediatrician or family medicine physician. They will be able to evaluate your child fully and refer you to a specialist if needed.”

“My colleagues and I know that a childhood cancer diagnosis is life-changing, and we strive to offer comprehensive care and support for families within their own community. We want the kids we care for and their families to feel like part of our family.” - Jacob Troutman, DO

How are childhood cancers treated?

While treatment varies depending on cancer type and stage, some of the most common treatments for childhood cancer include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery, bone marrow transplant and immunotherapy (which helps the body’s immune system better identify and attack cancer cells).

There are also clinical trials available for children facing cancer, and many previous studies led to the latest treatments that are used today.

“Over the last few decades, the pediatric hematology oncology community has identified more effective ways to treat the most common cancers affecting kids,” Dr. Troutman says. “These advances have not only increased survival rates, but they have also helped more children stay in remission.”

Childhood cancer care at Lehigh Valley Reilly Children’s Hospital

Lehigh Valley Reilly Children’s Hospital: Childhood Cancer awareness

Dr. Troutman and the other pediatric hematologist oncologists, nurses and staff members at the Children’s Cancer and Multipurpose Infusion Center at Lehigh Valley Reilly Children's Hospital offer personalized cancer treatment and supportive services to families across the region. The program is part of the Children’s Oncology Group (COG), which is the largest consortium of pediatric cancer hospitals and clinicians in the world.

“Our association with COG means we care for children using the same protocols that the world’s most renowned cancer centers follow,” Dr. Troutman says.

In addition to offering many of the latest treatments and having partnerships with other renowned pediatric cancer treatment centers, the Children’s Hospital offers families access to child-life specialists. These clinicians help meet the needs of children receiving cancer treatment by offering opportunities for stress relief and relaxation (as well as distractions to make procedures easier).

“My colleagues and I know that a childhood cancer diagnosis is life-changing, and we strive to offer comprehensive care and support for families within their own community,” Dr. Troutman says. “It’s not just about providing treatment, either. We want the kids we care for and their families to feel like part of our family. We get to know you on a personal level and are by your side through it all.”

Childhood Cancer Awareness

The Children’s Cancer and Multipurpose Infusion Center

Located at the Lehigh Valley Reilly Children’s Hospital, the Center is a kid-friendly, dedicated space for children to receive infusions for blood disorders or cancer care.

Learn more

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