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Childhood Cancer

Learn more about childhood cancer and the common types, signs, and symptoms of the disease.

Cancer is a group of diseases characterized by uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells. If the spread is not controlled, it can result in death. The types of cancer that develop in children and adolescents differ from those that develop in adults.

  • According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year in the United States, more than 15,000 children and adolescents under the age of 20 are diagnosed with cancer. 
  • Cancer is the number one cause of death by disease in children (ages 0-14) and adolescents (ages 15-19). 
  • Depending on the type of childhood cancer, survival rates in the United States can range from less than 1% to more than 90%. 

Signs and Symptoms of Childhood Cancer: 

Signs and symptoms of child and adolescent cancer often look like other more common diseases in children, making early diagnosis difficult. Eighty percent of pediatric cancer patients are diagnosed late and with metastatic (spreading) disease.  

Some common symptoms of child and adolescent cancer include: 

  • An unusual mass or swelling. 
  • Unexplained paleness or loss of energy. 
  • Sudden tendency to bruise. 
  • A persistent localized pain or limping.
  • A prolonged unexplained fever or illness. 
  • Frequent headaches, often with vomiting. 
  • Sudden eye or vision changes. 
  • Excessive, rapid weight loss. 

lease Note: Any of these signs and symptoms may be caused by cancer or by other, less serious health problems. If you or your child have any of these signs or symptoms, see your healthcare provider. 


Types of Childhood Cancer: 

Although there are more than 12 major types of pediatric cancers and more than 100 subtypes, the causes of most of these cancers are largely unknown. Certain chromosomes, genetic syndromes, and ionizing radiation are known risk factors, but only explain a small percentage of cases.  

The 12 main types of childhood cancer: 

  • Brain cancers (and brain stem tumors). 
  • Diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, DIPG (a type of brain stem cancer). 
  • Hepatoblastoma (liver cancer). 
  • Leukemia (blood cancer). 
  • Lymphoma (Hodgkin and Non-Hodgkin). 
  • Neuroblastoma (nerve cancer).  
  • Osteosarcoma (bone cancer). 
  • Retinoblastoma (eye cancer). 
  • Rhabdoid tumors. 
  • Sarcomas (soft tissue cancer). 
  • Spinal cord tumors. 
  • Wilms tumor (kidney tumor). 

Overall, among children and adolescents (ages 0 to 19) in the United States, the most common types of cancer are leukemias, brain and central nervous system (CNS) tumors, and lymphomas. 

For questions, please email pedscancer@odh.ohio.gov