About Childrens Cancer

About Children's Cancer

What is Cancer?
Cancer is an abnormal growth of cells caused by a series of injuries to certain important genes. These injuries cause a cell to lose its ability to have controlled growth and to mature into a cell that functions normally in the body. These cells continue to grow and do not provide a useful function. Most cancers can spread to other parts of the body causing damage as they spread.

What causes Cancer?
It is not know exactly what causes cancer, but we do know that things we are exposed to daily can have an effect; like viruses, radiation, some types of energy, and chemicals. Only a few cancers develop rapidly enough to affect children.

Is Cancer hereditary?
There are rare forms of cancer that are hereditary, however, most are not. Some families can have more than their fair share of cancer, for reasons unknown, and the cancer types tend to be breast cancer in adults and sarcomas in children.

Cancer Treatment
It has been discovered that at diagnosis there are usually cancer cells throughout the body, even if they cannot be detected by x-rays or blood tests. If surgery alone is used, these cells will eventually grow and the cancer will come back. Currently, many cancers are biopsied only and treated with several courses of chemotherapy to kill all the cancer cells before surgical procedures. Depending on the type of cancer and the initial response, further surgery, irradiation, chemotherapy, or a combination of treatments may then be recommended.

Bone Tumors
There are two types of bone tumors that occur in children, principally in adolescence, when rapidly growing bones are most susceptible. They are Ewing's Sarcoma and Osteosarcoma. Osteosarcoma is the most common malignant bone tumor of children and adolescents. It occurs most often in the bones on either side of the knee and in the upper arm. Each year in the United States, approximately 400 children under the age of 20 are diagnosed with osteosarcoma. The peak occurrence is during the adolescent growth spurt and is somewhat more likely in males than females; the incidence in black children is higher than that in white children. Patients usually come in with pain, swelling, decreased joint motion and occasionally a fracture at the tumor site. Symptoms are usually present for several months before a diagnosis is made. About 15 - 20% of the patients have metastatic disease at the time of diagnosis; usually in the lung and other bones, or metastasis will occur sometime during or post treatment. A major concern is removal of the tumor without jeopardizing the ability of the child to have normal function of their arms or legs. In the past, this operation required amputation of the extremity, however, because of recent developments, it has been possible to remove the tumor and implant prosthesis. Currently, the estimated 5 year survival for patients with osteosarcoma is about 75% compared to 30% for patients with metastatic disease.



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