What is cancer?

Cancer is an uncontrolled and abnormal cell growth that interferes with the body’s vital functions. Each year, 7 Million people die from cancer and close to 11 million new cases are diagnosed.  Cancer kills one in eight of those who die worldwide and claims twice as many lives as AIDS.  In fact, more deaths every year are caused by cancer than by AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined.

Does cancer affect children?

Children can also get cancer. An estimated 160,000 children around the world are diagnosed with cancer every year.  However, the exact number of new cases is probably much higher because these data are not recorded in many countries.  Governments in the developing world cannot afford to make childhood cancer priority in healthcare, and external  donations and aid programs are rarely allocated for this purpose.

In the Philippines, it has been estimated that about 3,500 children will be diagnosed with cancer each year.  Although multimodal management is available and could potentially cure 50-80% of these children, only about 10-20% actually attain long term survival.

What are the common types of childhood cancer?

  • Leukemia: cancer of white blood cells, it is also referred to as Leukocytes or WBCs.  When a child has leukemia, large numbers of abnormal white blood cells are produced in the bone marrow.  These abnormal white blood cells crowd the bone marrow and flood the bloodstream, but they cannot perform their proper role of protecting the body from diseases because they are defective. Common types of leukemia include Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL) and acute myelogenous leukemia (AML)
  • Brain Tumor: the most common type of solid tumors in children.  It forms when the cells in the brain system start growing abnormally and clump together to form a tumor, which then interferes with the brain’s functions.
  • Lymphoma: cancer of the lymph glands, which starts in the lymphoid tissue.  Lymphoma causes swelling of lymph nodes in the neck, armpit and groin.  There are two varieties of lymphoma: Hodgkin’s disease and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the latter being more common in children.
  • Osteosarcoma – cancer of the bone
  • Neuroblastoma – cancer of the sympathetic nervous system
  • Wilms’ Tumour – cancer of the kidney

What are the causes of childhood cancer?

There is no known cause for childhood cancer.

What are the symptoms of childhood cancer?

The signs and symptoms of cancer vary depending on the type of cancer.  The most common symptoms include:

  • Weight Loss
  • Unexplained and prolonged high fever
  • Unexplained nose and gum bleeding
  • Headaches and vomiting
  • White glow in the eyes


What are the treatments and side effects?

The treatment of cancer usually involves either one or a combination of the following:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiotherapy
  • Surgery
  • Bone Marrow Transplant

After the treatment, the common short-term side effects include:

  • Vomiting
  • Hair Loss
  • Weight Change
  • Risk of Children
  • Mood Swings