What is Childhood Cancer?

What is Childhood Cancer?

Childhood cancer is any form of cancer that occurs between birth and 14 years of age. Cancer is a disease in which abnormal cells grow uncontrollably and spread to other parts of the body, destroying healthy tissue. Some cancers are more common in children than in adults, and sometimes cancers are treated differently in children than in older people.

Types of Childhood Cancer


Childhood cancers can form almost anywhere in the human body. NewYork-Presbyterian’s pediatric oncologists specialize in many kinds of cancer in children. These include but are not limited to:

Stages of Childhood Cancer


The stage of cancer describes the size of a tumor and the extent to which it has grown and spread from its original site. Most pediatric cancers are divided into four stages, sometimes further sectioned into substages.

  • Stage I: Cancer remains localized at the original site and has not spread to other tissues
  • Stage II: Cancer has grown at the site but has not spread to other tissues or lymph nodes
  • Stage III: Cancer has grown and possibly spread to surrounding tissues and the lymph nodes
  • Stage IV: Cancer has “metastasized,” or spread, to at least one other body area. This is considered advanced cancer.

Signs & Symptoms of Childhood Cancer


Childhood cancer symptoms vary widely from person to person based on many factors. The type, location and severity all affect the symptoms of cancer in children that may arise as a result.
Many symptoms of cancer in children are symptoms of other conditions as well, so it’s important to bring your child to a doctor for a professional diagnosis if you notice any of the following signs:

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Unexplained and/or sudden weight loss
  • Chronic pain
  • A lump that doesn’t go away
  • Unexplained fevers

What Causes Childhood Cancer?


Most cancers in children and adults are caused by a gene mutation that causes uncontrolled cell growth. These mutations usually occur over time due to aging and exposure to environmental factors like radiation. Children with inherited gene mutations may be more likely to develop childhood cancers—inherited genetic mutations cause about ten percent of all cancers.

  • In most cases of childhood cancer, the cause of the disease is unknown.
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Trust NewYork-Presbyterian for Childhood Cancer Care

At NewYork-Presbyterian, our pediatric oncologists have extensive experience identifying the risk factors and signs of pediatric cancer and guiding patients and their caretakers through the diagnosis and treatment process. Your child’s treatment plan is tailor-made for him/her and includes the most advanced therapies based on the findings of the latest scientific studies.