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Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, spotlighting the need for increased research funding for pediatric cancer. Many cancer treatments for adults can seriously affect a child's development, so for better outcomes more specialized treatments for children are necessary.

The Statistics of Childhood Cancer

Pediatric cancer is not common, but as the leading killer of children by disease, it requires significant attention:

  • Over 15,000 children and teenagers in the U.S. are diagnosed with cancer each year; this is 42 new cases a day.
  • 1 in 285 children will be diagnosed with cancer before their 20th birthday.
  • The five-year survival rate for pediatric cancers is 80 percent.
  • 2,000 deaths every year are caused in America by childhood cancer.
  • Over 300,000 children and teenagers worldwide have been diagnosed with cancer.

Types of Childhood Cancers

Brain and Neural Tumors

These types of cancer affect the brain, spine, and nervous system. They include:

  • Brain Tumors: the most common childhood cancer in America, brain tumors grow inside of the skull.
  • Neuroblastoma: a cancer that forms in a child's nerve tissue, such as the adrenal glands, neck, chest, or spinal cord. Nearly 90% of the children diagnosed with this disease are under 5 years of age; it can even form before birth.
  • Retinoblastoma: a cancer which occurs in the retina of a child's eye, most commonly discovered when the pupil of a child's eye has a white glow visible in photographs.


Leukemia and other diseases of the blood and bone marrow usually affect red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. It is said that Leukemia is one of the most common types of cancer in children, teenagers, and adults. There are four common types of Leukemia found in childhood cancer, and they are:

Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL): The most common type of blood cancer in children, ALL is a fast growing form of Leukemia that occurs when the bone marrow makes too many immature lymphocytes in the liver, spleen, and lymph nodes. These white blood cells help protect the body from infection and disease, but too many immature lymphocytes will crowd out normal white blood cells, compromising the immune system. About 98% of children with ALL go into remission within weeks after starting treatment, and about 90% of those children can be cured.

Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML): The second most common cancer among children treated for other cancers, this is a leukemia in which the bone marrow makes a large number of abnormal blood cells. These abnormal cells crowd out the normal ones, compromising the immune system.

Juvenile Myelomonocytic Leukemia (JMML): A rare and serious form of childhood leukemia, JMML occurs when too many blood stem cells become white blood cells called monocytes and myelocytes, creating immature white blood cells called blasts. Over time, they crowd out the healthy red blood cells and platelets in the bone marrow, causing infection, anemia, or bleeding disorders. The only treatment for JMML is stem cell transplants.

Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML): A rare form of leukemia in children that occurs when too many bone marrow stem cells become a type of white blood cell called granulocytes, crowding out healthy cells with immature ones. Some of these never become mature white blood cells. While far more common in adults, CML is rare in children and accounts for about 1% of all childhood leukemias. CML can develop over a period of months or years.


The third most common type of childhood cancer, lymphoma forms in the lymphatic system, which is part of the body's immune system. The two main types, Hodgkin Lymphoma and Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, are distinguished by the uncontrollable reproduction of the Reed Sternberg cell in Hodgkin's disease. Swollen lymph nodes close to the body's surface (such as on the sides of the neck, in the groin or underarm areas, or above the collar bone) are one of the most frequent signs of lymphoma.


Sarcomas are cancerous tumors that develop in the soft tissue and bone. There are four main types:

  • Osteosarcoma: the most common bone cancer, usually beginning in osteoblasts, bone cells that become new bone tissue.
  • Ewing Sarcoma: a cancerous tumor that grows in the bones or in the tissue surrounding them, often in the legs, pelvis, ribs, arms, or spine.
  • Rhabdomyosarcoma: a type of cancerous tumor that arises in soft tissue such as the muscles.
  • Non-Rhabdomyosarcoma Soft Tissue Sarcomas (NRSTS): tumors that develop in the soft tissues of the body, most commonly the arms and legs.

Other Childhood Cancers

Childhood cancers can also be found in the liver, kidneys, and gonads. They include:

  • Wilms' Tumor: a solid cancerous tumor of the kidney that arises from immature kidney cells, Wilms' tumor is the 4th most common type of childhood cancer and the most common type of kidney cancer in children. 
  • Hepatoblastoma: a type of liver cancer that is usually found in babies and children up to age 3.
  • Hepatocellular Carcinoma: a type of liver cancer usually affecting children with Hepatitis B or C, or congenital diseases such as Wilson's Disease.
  • Germ Cell Tumors: growths that form from reproductive cells, germ cell tumors can begin to grow during fetal development.
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