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Children's Medical Services - Special services for children with special needs
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Infant Toddler Development Training
Module 6, Lesson 5


mother and baby swimmingCancer is the result of a failure of the body to regulate cell production. The result is a proliferation of abnormal cells in abnormal numbers and places. In the United States, there are 8,000 - 9,000 children diagnosed with cancer each year.

Common sites for cancers in children include muscle and bone (sarcomas), blood (leukemias), lymph nodes (lymphomas), the brain and nervous system (neuroblastomas), the kidneys (renal tumors), the eyes, and other soft tissues. A cancer may be diagnosed by the presence of a mass lesion or by the symptoms that are associated with the lesion. For example, a bone lesion may cause bone pain and limping as the first symptoms. Cancers of the blood may manifest through unexplained bleeding, bruising, or pallor. Cancers of the brain and/or central nervous system may cause headaches and vomiting. Kidney (renal) cancers may result in blood in the urine, pallor, and urinary tract obstruction.

child sittingThere may be swelling of the affected part of the body such as the face or neck when the cancer is present in soft tissue. There may also be obstructions in the airway. Cancers of the eye may first be detected seeing what appears to be a white spot on the pupil. Non-specific symptoms can include weight loss, diarrhea, low-grade fevers, malaise, and failure to thrive.

Cancer Treatments

Treatment of the child's cancer is overseen by a pediatric oncologist, a doctor who is a specialist in cancers, together with the child's primary medical doctor. Treatments can include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, bone marrow or blood stem cell transplants, and immunotherapy. Treatment is determined by three factors:

  • type of cancer,
  • extent of the disease at the time of diagnosis, and
  • balance of the efficacy of the treatment with the toxicity associated with the treatment.

Purposes of surgery include obtaining a specimen to determine the extent of the disease and to specify the type of cancer, removing the tumor mass to relieve symptoms, and inserting intravenous lines. The purpose of chemotherapy is to interrupt the cell cycle of proliferation of the abnormal cells while also minimizing the damage to normal cells. Most of the commonly used chemotherapeutic agents interrupt the cell cycle and cause breakage to the DNA strands to interrupt cell division. Often chemotherapy and radiation therapy are used in combination.

Transplantation is used to assist the body to grow more normal cells while reducing the number of abnormal cells. Immunotherapy is the administration of medicines that use the immune system to fight the cancer.

What family issues should the ITDS remember when working with a family of a child who is undergoing treatment for cancer?

What important information should the ITDS remember about the prognosis for children who have various forms of cancers?


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