Unfortunately, childhood cancer is a devastating situation that affects far too many families across the country. Typically, after learning of a member of their family suffering from childhood cancer, or having another personal connection to this unfortunate disease, does someone realize the true impact that this can have on families across the country and indeed the world.
Childhood cancer can have devastating impacts if it is not caught and identified quickly, especially in the rare forms of cancer that develop over a short period of time. Plenty of parents may be curious about whether or not these kinds of cancer could be prevented at all.
Medical Research on Childhood Cancer Still Evolving
Medical research is still exploring the common causes behind childhood cancer and not enough is yet known to equip parents and kids with the tools they need to know about risks. For many families, a diagnosis of childhood cancer seemingly comes out of nowhere, but it can change the family’s life forever. Many parents already follow the recommended advice on health, nutrition, and proper doctor’s visit, but cancer can still suddenly develop in these cases.
Many people wish after they learn their loved one has been diagnosed with childhood cancer, that they could have known about the risk factors well in advance and done anything possible to prevent it. Most parents have a desire to give ultimate safety and wellness to their children on a regular basis.
Academic and medical research in recent years has explored many ways to possibly prevent pediatric cancer. Although not all instances of childhood cancer can be prevented, one of the most important things for parents to do is to take their child to the doctor if unusual symptoms have emerged. When cancer has already developed in a child's body, the sooner that it can be identified and treated with the help of medical professionals, the more likely the child is to have a successful future.
Unfortunately, far too many cases of childhood cancer are missed due to misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose. This means the child misses out on valuable opportunities to have the condition treated and may mean that the disease develops that much more quickly. Unlike many adult cancers, lifestyle-related risk factors do not influence a child's risk of getting cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.
Can Environmental Factors Cause Childhood Cancer?
Certain environmental factors like exposure to radiation have been linked to a higher childhood cancer risk. In some situations, a child could inherit changes in genes that can make them more likely to develop a certain kind of cancer. In these particular circumstances, doctors might recommend preventative surgery to remove organs before cancer can develop there. However, this is very rare.
There are certain risk factors that may be present in a child that could put him or her at a higher chance of developing a cancer. Parents who are aware of this and who note the side effects and symptoms very early, may have a better chance of curbing the issue as soon as possible. Since lifestyle factors like drinking alcohol, smoking, not getting enough exercise, and being overweight will impact cancer risk over many years, they do not play much of a role in childhood cancer.
In recent years, however, scientists have begun to explore how certain DNA changes inside the cells might prompt them to become cancer cells. Certain children will have DNA changes or mutations from a parent that can increase their risk of cancer. The vast majority of childhood cancers, however, are not caused directly by inherited DNA changes, rather they are the result of DNA changes that occur very early on in a child's life, sometimes even before birth has occurred.
Acquired mutation is a process in which a cell divides into two new cells and copies its DNA. Since this process is not perfect and errors can typically occur. This may ultimately develop into cancer. Screening is a testing that is carried out for a disease like cancer in individuals who do not have any symptoms. Since childhood cancers are already so rare on their own, there are no recommended screening tests to identify cancer in children who do not have an increased risk.
Certain gene changes that are inherited from a parent might require a child to get regular medical check-ups to look for early signs. Many cancers in children are identified by parents, relatives, or the child's doctor. These symptoms may be inappropriately assigned as signs of injuries or common illnesses. Since cancer in children is not common, you do need to visit a doctor if you believe that cancer may be present or a possible issue to rule out.
Any parent should be mindful of unexplained medical conditions that do not disappear over time. Since other conditions are so much more common, it’s often the case that a doctor will want to rule out other issues first. If your child continues to struggle with the same side effects after other treatment options have not worked, a second opinion may help you figure out whether or not cancer is affecting your loved one.
While proper screening is the cornerstone of cancer identification and prevention in adults, this same method does not apply for kids. It is often the fact that continues to report concerns to a parent and the resulting doctor’s appointments that many types of childhood cancer are identified.