The good news is that while new cases are increasing, the mortality rate has been cut in half (53%) in that same time-period. This can be attributed to improvements in treatment and the high number of young patients who are participating in clinical trials.
But there is still reason for awareness and diligence in caring for our children's health. Though the mortality rate for childhood cancers is relatively small, only 1,300 children are expected to lose their battles with cancer compared to over 570,000 adults - it is still listed as the second-leading cause of death in children, surpassed only by accidents. One-third of the estimated deaths will be in children who are diagnosed with leukemia.
Early symptoms of cancer in children are usually non-specific. Children should be receiving regular medical checkups to help parents and doctors become familiar with what is "normal" for their health. Any unusual symptoms that persist can be investigated. If there is a suspicion of cancer, it's vital that it is caught early, avoiding a potentially health-threatening delay in diagnosis.
Some symptoms can include:
unexplained paleness and/or loss of energy;
Sudden tendency to bruise;
Persistent, localized pain;
Prolonged, unexplained fever or illness;
Frequent headaches, often with vomiting;
Sudden eye or vision changes; and
Excessive, rapid weight loss.
Major categories of childhood cancer and their respective symptoms can be found on the Ped-Onc Resource Center. As with any cancer, the best defense is a good offense. Know your children and their habits and health histories well, and visit with a doctor if you have concerns about their health.