Children with cancer


Being told that your child has cancer is extremely difficult. Many parents say they felt overwhelmed and confused in the first days and weeks after their child’s diagnosis. This guide has both medical information and coping advice that can help your child and your family.

Keep in mind:

● You are not alone . Your child’s treatment team has many specialists who will care for the physical and emotional needs of your child. They will also help support your family during this difficult time.

● More children than ever before survive childhood cancer . Most parents have good reason to be hopeful that their child will get better.

● Knowledge is power . Many people and resources are available to help you learn about the type of cancer your child has, how it’s treated, and what to expect. This guide aims to give parents practical support that can help you find a doctor, talk with your child, help your family to cope, organize medical and insurance information, and learn about additional resources. It also includes information to help you learn more about specific types of childhood cancer, tests and procedures, treatments and clinical trials, health issues during treatment, steps to take if treatment isn’t working, and survivorship

Types Of Childhood Cancer

This section provides general information about childhood cancer. Here are some points to consider as you start to learn more:

Cancer is a group of many related diseases, not one disease . The word “cancer” is used to describe a group of diseases in which abnormal cells divide without control, invade nearby tissues, and spread to other parts of the body through the blood and lymph systems.

Cancers in children are different from cancers in adults . The parts of the body in which cancer occurs most often are different for children and adults. The most common childhood cancers Types of Childhood Cancer Normal cells Abnormal cells are leukemia, brain and other central nervous system tumors, and lymphoma. Together, these cancers account for more than half of all cancers diagnosed in children but only a small percentage of the cancers diagnosed in adults. 


This section explains how cancer is diagnosed in children. It will help you learn what tests are used to diagnose cancer and how staging systems, risk groups, and grades may be used to plan treatment for your child and to make a prognosis.

Common symptoms

The early symptoms of childhood cancer are often similar to ones that are commonly seen in other illnesses. These symptoms may include fever, feeling tired, swollen glands, or weight loss. Others, such as bruising or tender joints or bones, may lead a parent to suspect an injury. When these signs and symptoms last or are severe, the doctor may order tests to check for cancer or other illnesses. 


Hospitals That Specialize in Treating Children With Cancer

After learning that your child has cancer, you will need to decide where to have your child treated. Sometimes children who are diagnosed with cancer need to start treatment right away. However, when possible, it’s often valuable to seek a second medical opinion. This section helps you learn about hospitals that specialize in treating children with cancer, how to get a second opinion, and tips for working with your child’s health care team.

Choosing where to have your child treated

Most children with cancer receive treatment at places that specialize in treating cancer in children—such as a children’s hospital, university medical center, or cancer center. Hospitals that have experts in treating children with cancer are usually member institutions of the Children’s Oncology Group (COG). COG is the world’s largest organization devoted to clinical research to improve the care and treatment of children and adolescents with cancer. 



Getting professional help 

If you are not sleeping well, are often in a depressed mood, or feel irritable or anxious, talk with your primary care doctor. Your doctor can give you the names of health care professionals who can help you, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, family therapist, or social worker. Some parents find that it helps to talk with a leader in their spiritual community.

Joining a support group

Some support groups meet in person, whereas others meet online. Many parents benefit from the experiences and information shared in these groups. Some parents find online message boards helpful.



Tips that help families adjust after treatment 

● Celebrate . Find special ways to mark the end of treatment. Recognize each person in your family. Celebrate their accomplishments at the hospital or at home with family and friends. Find a way to thank the people on your child’s health care team.

● Get informed . Learn about organizations that support survivors and their families in the Related resources section on page 71.

● Get emotional support . Talk with a professional counselor or join a support group.

● Live in the present . Take things one day at a time. Try to focus on today.

● Help others . Some parents find ways to give back and help others. Parents often say that giving back is what helped them the most.


Practices That Help Children: Integrative Medicine Approaches 

Integrative medicine approaches can help your child feel better during treatment. This care is given in addition to standard medical treatment which may include chemotherapy or radiation therapy. It does not replace these treatments. For example, your child may receive acupuncture to help lower side effects caused by cancer treatment. 

Integrative practices that may help children during treatment

Your child’s health care team will talk with you about ways to help your child cope during treatment. Based on your child’s age, symptoms, and preferences – some practices that may be suggested include:

● Acupuncture is the technique of inserting very thin needles (about the thickness of a hair) through the skin at specific points on the body to control pain and other symptoms. It is based on the belief that vital energy flows along pathways in the body and that health problems occur when this energy is blocked. Acupuncture does not hurt, and even children who are afraid of needles can get acupuncture. It may help lower fatigue, pain, and nausea. Learn more about acupuncture.

● Art therapy uses the making of art and a child’s response to art to improve her physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Art therapy is sometimes used together with psychotherapy. Your child can make art alone or with an art therapist. Art therapy may help lower stress, pain, and fear. It may improve communication and social interactions.

● Biofeedback is a method that helps children learn how to control some bodily functions, such as their heartbeat, blood pressure, muscle tension, sweating, and temperature. While learning this technique, your child will be connected to a machine that monitors these functions. Once children learn how to control their body, they may use biofeedback to lower pain and to relax. Learn more about biofeedback and other relaxation techniques.