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With continued advancements in cancer treatments and technologies, more children are being cured than ever before. At Mercy Kids, we focus on achieving the best possible outcomes, so your child can focus on being a kid. If your child has cancer, you need so much more than medical care. You need compassionate caregivers by your side who understand how cancer affects the whole family.
At Mercy Kids, you’ll find a supportive, family-centered care environment, along with the deep expertise it takes to fight childhood cancer. Mercy’s specialized cancer centers for children and adolescents offer therapy rooms that provide a comforting environment for children receiving treatment, as well as relaxing spaces for children and their families to gather, play games or simply be together.
Dr. Robin Hanson, a pediatric hematologist/oncologist at the Cardinals Kids Cancer Center at Mercy Children’s Hospital St. Louis, explains the special needs and concerns of young adults with cancer.
Unlike many cancers of adults, lifestyle-related factors, such as drinking and smoking, don't play much of a role in a child's risk of getting cancer. Although there are a few environmental factors, such as radiation exposure, that have been associated with an increased risk of some childhood cancers, these are rare. Many cancers in children are found early. However, early detection of cancer in children can be difficult since early symptoms are often similar to those caused by illness and injury.
Children can develop cancer anywhere in their bodies, including the blood, lymph system, brain and spinal cord (central nervous system), kidneys, and other organs and tissues. Cancer behaves differently in kids than it does in adults, even in the same parts of the body. Mercy treats all types of childhood cancer including:
Childhood leukemia accounts for 29% of all children’s cancers. Leukemia is cancer of the blood cells in the bone marrow ― the spongy tissue inside your bones where blood cells develop. Leukemia usually occurs when abnormal white blood cells grow out of control. The two most common types of leukemia in children are:
About 26% of childhood cancers are brain and spinal cord cancers. Many types of tumors can develop, including:
Lymphoma starts in a type of white blood cell called a lymphocyte, which is part of the immune system. There are two primary types of lymphoma:
Of the two types, non-Hodgkin lymphoma is more common in children. It accounts for about 7% of all childhood cancers.
Thyroid cancer develops in the thyroid gland, the butterfly-shaped organ at the base of the throat that regulates metabolism, blood pressure, body temperature and heart rate. Thyroid cancer is less common in children than adults, representing only 4-5% of all childhood cancers and is most often diagnosed in teenage girls.
Cancer cells can form in the tissues of the liver, causing liver cancer. Liver cancer accounts for about 2% of all childhood cancers. The most common type of liver cancer in children is hepatoblastoma, which originates in liver cells and appears at ages 2 months to 3 years.
Cancer cells can form in the bones or spread to them from somewhere else in the body. The two most common types of bone cancer in children are:
Germ cell and gonadal tumors affect children’s reproductive organs (ovaries in girls and testicles in boys). Most ovarian and testicular cancers start from germ cells ― the cells in a developing embryo that eventually become the eggs in ovaries and sperm in testicles. Germ-cell tumors in kids are rare, representing only 3.5% of children’s cancers.
Depending on the type of childhood cancer, other symptoms are possible. Keep in mind that in many cases, these symptoms are caused by something other than cancer. Although cancer isn’t common in children, any unusual symptoms that don’t go away on their own can indicate a potential issue, including:
Share any concerns with your child’s Mercy health care provider, which may be a pediatrician, family practitioner or nurse practitioner, depending on which office you visit for care.
Your child’s Mercy health care provider is likely to be the first to suspect an issue that could be cancer-related. From there, you’ll visit Mercy’s pediatric oncologists and hematologists, who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of childhood cancer. They’re supported by a team that includes social workers, nutritionists, therapists and many other health professionals who address the whole spectrum of childhood cancer.
Diagnostic tests depend on your child’s symptoms, but some common tests include:
At Mercy, we offer comprehensive testing services to diagnose conditions and injuries, including:
At Mercy, we offer compassionate care for a variety of treatment services, including:
Discover how you can participate in an oncology clinical trial. Learn more.