14 possible signs of childhood cancer everybody needs to be aware of

These symptoms don’t always mean cancer – but it’s always best to get things checked.

Thankfully, cancer in children is rare – but it’s still a good idea for everybody to be aware of the possible warning signs and symptoms.

The most common type of childhood cancer is leukaemia, which accounts for about a third of all cases, followed by cancers of the brain and spinal cord, which account for a quarter. But what are the signs and symptoms to look out for?

Remember, these don’t automatically mean cancer and are often caused by something far more common and harmless – however, it is always best to get things checked with your doctor, so make an appointment with your GP if you have any concerns (and if symptoms persist, you can always go back for another chat).

Here are 14 possible signs and symptoms of childhood cancer to be aware of…

1. Unable to wee, or blood in their wee

Keep an eye out for any unusual changes in their toilet habits, particularly blood in the urine, or difficulty passing urine.

Check on toilet changes (Thinkstock/PA)

2. Unexplained bleeding

A child with cancer may bleed more than expected, after a minor injury or nosebleed for example.

3. Persistent abdominal pain or swelling

Persistent tummy pains should be checked out (Thinkstock/PA)

The occasional stomach ache is very common in kids, but if they’re complaining of an ongoing stomach ache, or you notice their tummy looks swollen, get it checked. Leukaemia cells can accumulate in the spleen, liver, and kidneys, causing abdominal organs to enlarge.

4. Back pain or joint pain that won’t go away

Are they saying their back, bones or joints keep hurting? Ongoing aches and pains of this nature can sometimes be linked with cancer, so make an appointment and get things checked.

Joint aches are normal from time to time but can also be due to cancer (Thinkstock/PA)

5. Unexplained seizures or changes in behaviour

Seizures are one of the most common symptoms in paediatric brain tumours, and should always be investigated.

6. Headaches that won’t go away

Everybody gets headaches from time to time – but if they seem to be happening frequently or are getting worse, see your GP.

Do they keep getting headaches? (Thinkstock/PA)

7. Frequent or unusual bruising, paleness and rashes

Kids are prone to bumps and bruises – but if they seem to be unusually prone to bruising, or bruises appear for no clear reason, this may be a sign of cancer. An unusually pale complexion, and a rash with red or purple spots that won’t go away are also possible symptoms that it’s best to get checked.

8. Feeling tired all the time

Just like adults, children can get exhausted – but unusual and ongoing tiredness can be a warning sign that something’s wrong. While lots of other things can cause tiredness, make an appointment and chat things through with your GP.

Children may appear to have less energy than usual (Thinkstock/PA)

9. Frequent flu-like symptoms or infections

Cancer can affect white blood cells, which may mean they’re more prone to infections and flu-like symptoms.

10. Unexplained vomiting

Bouts of sickness are very common in young children and usually caused by something minor. But unusual vomiting, especially if it’s occurring regularly, should be checked out, just in case there’s something else going on.

11. Unexplained fever or sweating

These symptoms are also associated with minor infections like coughs and colds. But if you’re concerned or the fever seems unusual, check in with the GP.

12. Unexplained weight loss

Cancer can also affect a child’s appetite, or mean they’re not able to eat as much as they normally would. It can also affect how the body uses up energy, resulting in an unexplained drop in weight.

13. Feeling short of breath

Being short of breath may be due to conditions like asthma or chest infections, but it can also occur with cancer. Leukaemia cells can clump around the thymus gland at the base of the neck, making breathing more difficult.

14. Changes in the appearance of the eye

Seeing a white reflection in a child’s eyes in photos is often due to light shining off the optic nerve, which is completely harmless. However, the white reflex could be a sign of retinoblastoma, a rare form of eye cancer that affects babies and young children mainly under the age of six.

- Press Association


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