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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.
Pediatric cancer is not common, but as the leading killer of children by disease, it requires significant attention:
These types of cancer affect the brain, spine, and nervous system. They include:
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:
Childhood cancers can also be found in the liver, kidneys, and gonads. They include: