September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month


September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month. The Children’s’ Cancer Research Fund reports, “each day, 42 families in the United States will receive the devastating news that their child or teen has cancer.” As a public health nurse working with the Children with Medical Handicaps or CMH program for Meigs County I want to raise awareness on childhood diseases and promote early detection in childhood cancer during this month and throughout the year.

Cancer, is a word used to describe a rapid reproduction/mutation in cells, but often carries a concerning reaction for families. Words like metastasis, biopsy, and chemotherapy may follow cancer and time tends to be an enemy and a blessing all at once. It is a difficult battle for an adult, but when a child receives such a diagnosis it can be so heartbreaking. Parents can be overwhelmed with emotions, financial concerns and appointment dates. The CMH program provides a six month period of medical coverage for diagnostic services which cover scans, x-rays, lab testing and can assist in service coordination for eligible diagnosis during a time of unbelievable heartache for Ohio families.

Childhood cancers differ from those common in adults. While breast, lung, prostate and colorectal cancers are the most common in adults, a large portion are the result of environmental or lifestyle choices. In contrast, childhood cancers are thought to originate in a DNA mutation in fetal development. The National Cancer Society, National Cancer Institute, St. Jude’s Hospital, Roswell Park Cancer Institute and the CDC conclude that the most common childhood cancers include types of Leukemia and tumors of the brain/spinal cord. Less common types of childhood cancers include lymphomas, rhabdomyosarcoma, neuroblastoma, Wilm’s tumor, bone and gonadal germ cell tumors.

Leukemia or “blood cancer” comes on quickly and is fast growing. In acute lymphocytic leukemia, there are too many lymphoblasts (immature white blood cells) in the blood and bone marrow. Common symptoms may include bone and joint pain, weakness, weight loss, fatigue and even paleness to skin.

Brain and Spinal cord tumors (CNS tumors) such as brain stem glioma, craniopharyngioma, medulloblastoma, and meningioma. Symptoms depend on the type of tumor and the area affected. Common symptoms may include headaches, sudden onset of seizures, loss of coordination, or change in behavior.

Lymphoma is a disease of the bodies’ lymphatic system typically classified in either Hogkins or non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma- a more common type developed by lymphocytes (white blood cells). Patients may notice painless enlargement of lymph nodes, weight loss, night sweats and fatigue.

Hodgkins Lymphoma- a less common type associated with mutation of cells throughout the lymphatic system and into surrounding tissues. Patients may notice a persistent fatigue, weight loss, fever, chills and pain in the lymph nodes, especially following alcohol consumption.

Rhabdomyosarcoma is a cancer involving cells that would normally develop into skeletal muscle. Patients may notice a large mass, unexplained bleeding, or difficulty urinating/defecating.

Neuroblastoma is a cancer involving immature nerve cells. Symptoms depend largely on location of the cancer. Generally, a child may show signs of back pain, dark circles under the eyes, eye bulging and lumps under the skin.

Wilm’s tumor is characterized by a large tumor in the kidney. The cause is unknown but may have genetic components. Symptoms may include a painless mass in the abdomen and possibly generalized fatigue and blood in the urine can be indications of this tumor. Rarely, Wilm’s tumor can affect blood pressure and cause headaches.

Bone Cancer is a cancer originating in the bone. There are differing types of bone cancers. Ewing’s Sarcoma is the most common in children and is most likely to develops in the pelvis, arms or legs of children. Some symptoms may present as bone pain, tenderness, or unexplained fractures.

Gonadal (ovarian/testicular) Germ Cell Cancers are thought to originate during fetal development. Symptoms are dependent on gender type. Generalized signs could include localized pain or swelling.

Treatments of Childhood Cancers are individualized to the child, type of cancer and degree of metastasis (staging). Pediatric Oncology is a medical specialty due to the dramatic differences in types of cancers and treatment protocols. For example, children can typically receive and are more tolerant to chemotherapy compared to adults. However, radiation and chemotherapy are not without side effects. Patients are encouraged to continue ongoing follow up care with their primary care physician/oncologist for normal growth, development and to avoid relapse.

In conclusion, a bittersweet statement from the National Cancer Institute, “In the United States in 2017, an estimated 10,270 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed among children birth-14 years, and 1,190 children are expected to die from the disease. Although pediatric cancer death rates have declined by nearly 70 percent over the past four decades, cancer remains the leading cause of death from disease among children.”

Childhood cancers are a sad truth in today’s society. Due to the nature of origin (in early development), the diagnosis cannot typically be prevented. Parents can take comfort in knowing their child’s ‘normal’, by following their intuition, and visiting their child’s Pediatrician yearly to increase the chance of early detection. Please call Angie Rosler RN at (740) 992-6626 Monday- Wednesday with any questions about the CMH program. For more information on Cancer research visit: childrenscancer.org or www.stjude.org

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Meigs Health Matters

By Angela Rosler

Special to the Times-Sentinel

Angela Rosler, RN, is a Public Health/CMH Nurse at the Meigs County Health Department.