Childhood cancer

Facing pediatric cancers, early detection and appropriate treatment are the main measures. Medical advances now allow to cure three children in four developed countries.

Organized by the International Union against cancer (UICC), world day of cancer called 2006 ‘My child, my battle’ insists on the importance of equal access to care (14 projects will be launched by the UICC in 2006 in ten poor countries) and screened early1.

childhood cancer

Few identified risk factors
Because the causes of childhood cancers remain largely mysterious. They most likely result from a lack of development of organs, already present sometimes in an embryonic State. Because of these genetic origins, no preventive measure concerns currently pediatric cancers. Some environmental risk factors have been advanced. The only well-established is exposure to ionizing radiation on children but also on the pregnant woman. Other factors remain more controversial as proximity to high-voltage lines and fields electromagnetic2, exposure to chemicals of parents3, certain infections4, smoking parents5…

Given the lack of preventive measures, early detection remains key to good support.
The importance of early detection.
In about 85% of cases, one or more of the following symptoms are usually present6 :
Mass or abnormal abdominal swelling;
Fever, prolonged and unexplained;
Pallor, loss of energy and rapid weight loss;
Pain and prolonged and unexplained, often accompanied by vomiting headache;
Frequent bruising and unexplained bleeding;
Sudden change of balance or behavior;
Head swollen;
White reflections in the eye.
“Most of the symptoms of cancer can be interpreted as childhood diseases” warns Dr. John Seffrin, president of UICC. “It is therefore extremely important that parents take their child to a doctor for examination, if any of these symptoms appear.”

Important cure rates in developed countries
In France, medical advances to save nearly three out of four children. Oncologists and pediatricians intend to further improve this figure and reduce the side effects of treatments that remain heavy. But beyond these therapeutic advances, efforts are still needed to improve the quality of life of children during and after treatment. The presence of parents during hospitalization or the counselling of the child but also of relatives are too often lacking.

David Beme
1 – World Day against cancer 2006 press kit – UICC
2 Cancer Causes Control 1994; 5:299 – 309
3. Environ Health Prospect 1990; 88:325 – 37
4 Expert Rev Anti Infect Ther. 2006 Feb; 4 (1): 77-89.
5 An Pediatr (Barc). 2005 Dec; 63 (6): 537 – 47.
6 – International society of paediatric Oncology (SIOP), 2003