Childhood Cancer Types

There are many different childhood cancer types, this is only a brief list of types and their signs and symptoms, I urge you to click the links provided, leading to established websites, that cover these cancers in much more detail.

If you feel something is wrong, please seek advice and be persistent if you are repeatedly turned away, you can always get a second opinion, and another.

Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL)

Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL) is a type of blood cancer.

This can affect children of any age but is more common in children aged 1-4 years old.

75% of leukaemia cases are ALL. (approx)

Leukaemia is a cancer of the white blood cells, which help fight infection in the body.  Leukaemia cells, grow rapidly, leaving no room for other blood cells to grow.

ALL affects the immature lymphocytes, called lymphblasts or blast cells.

Signs and Symptoms.

  • tired and lethargic
  • pale skin
  • develop bruises
  • unusual bleeding which may take longer to stop
  • frequent infections
  • purple skin rash called petechiae

Read more about ALL at CCLG

Acute myeloid leukaemia (AML)

Acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) is a type of blood cancer.

This can affect children of any age.

25% of childhood leukaemia cases are AML.

Leukaemia is a cancer of the white blood cells, which help fight infection in the body.  Leukaemia cells, grow rapidly, leaving no room for other blood cells to grow.

AML affects immature myeloid white blood cells (blast cells).

Signs and Symptoms.

  • tired and lethargic
  • pale skin
  • develop bruises
  • unusual bleeding which may take longer to stop
  • frequent infections
  • purple skin rash called petechiae
  • feeling generally unwell
  • may complain of aches and pains in the limbs
  • may have swollen lymph glands.

Read more about AML at CCLG

Brain tumours

Brain tumours are the most common tumours that develop in children.

Children of any age can be affected.

There are many different types of brain tumours.

They are usually named after the type of cells the develop from.

Brain tumours can be either benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).

Signs and Symptoms

  • repeated headaches
  • vomiting or feeling sick
  • one-sided weakness of legs, arms or face
  • clumsiness or poor coordination (including difficulties with balance)
  • fits (seizures) or tremors
  • feeling very irritated or losing interest in day-to-day things
  • changes in behaviour or emotional outbursts
  • eye problems, such as abnormal eye movements, blurring or double vision
  • feeling very tired much more quickly than usual
  • feeling extremely sleepy (drowsy) for no reason.
  • Age specific signs and symptoms from HeadSmart

Read more about brain tumours at CCLG

Lymphoma

Lymphoma is a type of blood cancer.

There are two types of Lymphoma, Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma and Hodgkin Lymphoma.

Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (NHL)

Children of any age can be affected.

There are two main types of NHL:

  • B-cell NHL usually involves the lymph nodes in the abdomen and intestines, but may involve nodes in the head and neck
  • T-cell NHL usually affects lymph nodes in the chest 

Occasionally, NHL can develop in unusual places outside the lymph nodes. This is called extranodal lymphoma.

Signs and Symptoms

  • a lump
  • feeling full and some stomach pain (if in abdomen)
  • a high temperature (fever)
  • tiredness
  • weight loss
  • loss of appetite.

Hodgkin Lymphoma

Children of any age can be affected but is more common in older teenagers and young adults. 

There are two main types of Hodgkin lymphoma:

  • Classical Hodgkin lymphoma, which affects 95% of patients
  • Lymphocyte Predominant Hodgkin Lymphoma (LPHL), which only affects 5% of patients.

Signs and Symptoms

  • painless swelling of one gland, or a group of lymph glands
  • a cough or breathlessness (if in chest)
  • high temperature (fever)
  • night sweats
  • weight loss
  • itchy skin.

Read more about lymphoma at CCLG

Osteosarcoma

Osteosarcoma is a type of bone cancer.

Older children and teenagers are commonly affected and are very rarely seen in children under five.

Any bone in the body can be affected, but the most common sites are in the arms and legs, particularly around the knee and shoulder joints.

There are several different types of osteosarcoma.

Signs and Symptoms

  • pain in the affected bone (may come and go, then become more severe and constant especially at night)
  • there may  be swelling around the affected bone.
  • a bone breaks after a minor fall or accident
  • may develop a limp if the tumour is in the leg or pelvis.

Read more about osteosarcoma at CCLG

Ewing sarcoma

Ewing sarcoma is a type of bone cancer.

It is the second most common primary sarcoma.

It usually occurs in the teenage years.

It most commonly occurs in the long bones, ribs, pelvis and spine (vertebral column).

Although Ewing sarcoma is a type of bone cancer, it can also occur very rarely in the soft tissues. 

Signs and Symptoms

  • pain is the most common symptom of bone cancer. It is frequently worse at night.
  • swelling in the affected area if the tumour is close to the surface( may become tender to touch)
  • may cause a limp if in the leg or pelvis
  • a bone that breaks after a minor fall or accident
  • may be fever or weight loss.

Read more about ewing sarcoma at CCLG

Rhabdomyosarcoma

Rhabdomyosarcoma is a type of soft tissue sarcoma (tumour).

Most affected are younger than 10 years old. 

It is the most common of soft tissue sarcomas in children. 

They develop in the supporting tissues of the body, such as bone, muscle or cartilage.

There are two main types of sarcomas:

  • Soft tissue sarcomas can develop in muscle, fat, blood vessels, and in other tissues that support, surround and protect the organs.
  • Bone sarcomas can develop in any bone.

Signs and Symptoms

  • lump or swelling.

Specific areas:

  • tumour in the head or neck area
  • can sometimes cause a blockage (obstruction) and discharge from the nose or throat.
  • occasionally, an eye may appear swollen and protruding.
  • tumour in the abdomen (tummy)
  • can cause pain or discomfort in the abdomen
  • difficulty going to the toilet (constipation).
  • tumour in the bladder
  • may cause blood in the urine
  • difficulty passing urine.

Read more about Rhabdomyosarcoma at CCLG

Neuroblastoma

Neuroblastoma develops from the cells left behind from a baby’s development in the womb. The cells that it develops from are called neuroblasts.

Most children affected are younger than five years old.

It’s the most common solid tumour in children that occurs outside of the brain.

Neuroblastoma can occur anywhere in the body. It can spread to tissues beyond the original site such as the bone marrow, bone, lymph nodes, liver, and skin.

Signs and Symptoms

  • occasionally, there are deposits of neuroblastoma in the skin that appear as small, blue-coloured lumps.
  • may have high blood pressure.
  • rare
  • children may have jerky eye and muscle movements.
  • general unsteadiness
  • vague and non-specific
  • tiredness, pallor, loss of appetite, weight loss, bone pain and generalised discomfort.

Specific areas:

  • tumour is in the abdomen.
  • your child’s tummy may be swollen.
  • may complain of constipation.
  • may have difficulty passing urine.
  • tumour is in the chest area.
  • your child may be breathless.
  • may have difficulty swallowing.
  • tumour is in the neck
  • often visible as a lump
  • occasionally affects breathing and swallowing.
  • tumour pressing on the spinal cord
  • may have weakness in the legs and walk unsteadily.
  • if your child is not yet walking, you may notice reduced leg movements.
  • may also have constipation or difficulty passing urine.

Read more about Neuroblastoma at CCLG

Wilms tumour

Wilms’ tumour is a type of kidney (renal) cancer in children.

Most affected are children under the age of seven.

It is thought to develop from immature cells in the embryo.

Many children with Wilms’ tumour, have clusters of primitive kidney cells, called ‘nephrogenic rests’.

Signs and Symptoms

  • swollen abdomen, which is usually painless.
  • you may feel a lump in the abdomen which can be quite large.
  • if the tumour bleeds slightly, this can irritate the kidney and may be painful.
  • may be blood in urine.
  • their blood pressure may be raised.
  • may also have a high temperature (fever), upset stomach, weight loss or a lack of appetite.

Read more about Wilms tumour at CCLG

Germ cell tumours

Germ cell tumours develop from cells that produce eggs or sperm. 

They can appear at any age.

They can affect the ovaries or testes. It is possible for a germ cell tumour to develop in other parts of the body, such as, bottom of the spine (sacrococcygeal), the brain, chest, and abdomen.

They may be, non-cancerous (benign), cancerous (malignant), or fall between benign and malignant. 

Signs and Symptoms

  • symptoms depend on where the tumour develops.
  • may start with a lump that can either be felt or it causes other symptoms.

Read more about germ cell tumours at CCLG

Retinoblastoma

Retinoblastoma is an eye cancer.

It develops in the retina.

It usually affects children under five, although it can affect children of any age.

There are two forms of retinoblastoma:

  • A heritable form – this is genetic or inherited. Usually tumours are in both eyes (bilateral) or sometimes only in one eye.
  • A non-heritable form – this is not inherited. There is one tumour in only one eye (unilateral).

Signs and Symptoms

  • family history of retinoblastoma.
  • for some it is picked up by screening before they have any symptoms.
  • no family history of retinoblastoma.
  • a white pupil that does not reflect light (leucocoria), or a black pupil instead of red eye. – may be picked up with flash photography.
  • changes in iris colour.
  • may have a squint.
  • if the tumour is large, they may have a painful eye.
  • Read more on the signs and symptoms of retinoblastoma at CHECT

Read more about retinoblastoma at CCLG

Liver tumours

Liver tumours can be non- cancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant).

Following information is about malignant liver tumours.

 There are two main types of primary liver cancer:

  • Hepatoblastoma – this usually occurs in children under five years of age. 
  • Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) – this is rarer and usually occurs in older children. 

Signs and Symptoms

  • lump or swelling in the abdomen, which can be painful.
  • possible weight loss, and a loss of appetite,
  • might be feeling sick (nausea) and being sick (vomiting).

Read more about liver tumours at CCLG

Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis (LCH)

 

In LCH, abnormal cells ( dendritic), accumulate in tissues in different parts of the body, creating lesions, they may cause damage.

The tissues that can be affected, are in the bone marrow, skin, lungs, liver, lymph glands, spleen and pituitary gland. 

It can affect children of any age.

There’s debate about whether LCH is a cancer but it is classified as such, and sometimes requires treatment with chemotherapy.

They are usually treated by children’s cancer specialists (paediatric oncologists/ haematologists).

LCH is divided into two groups:

  • Single-system LCH – when the disease affects only one part of the body, for example the skin or the bone
  • Multi-system LCH – when it affects more than one part of the body

Signs and Symptoms

Specific areas:

  • lymph glands
  • the lymph glands may be enlarged
  • may be irritable and have a poor appetite.
  • bones
  • Pain in the bone and/or swelling
  • lumps on the skull can occur
  • skin
  • skin rash such as cradle cap or nappy rash
  • ear
  • discharge from the ear
  • hearing problems can occur
  • lungs or chest
  • may have breathing difficulties.
  • gut or liver
  • stomach problems such as diarrhoea
  • liver problems including jaundice
  • pituitary gland at the base of the brain
  • can cause hormonal problems
  • passing larger amounts of urine and being very thirsty. (diabetes insipidus, different from sugar diabetes
  • Occasionally, other pituitary hormones may be affected, causing poor growth or delayed puberty.

Read more about LCH at CCLG

Rare cancers

Pancreatoblastoma

Malignant Rhabdoid Tumours (kidney, not to be confused with Wilm’s tumours)

Atypical Teratoid Rhabdoid Tumour (brain)

Juvenile Xanthogranuloma (JXG)

Melanotic Neuroectodermal Tumours of Infancy

Cancers that usually only affect adults, such as cancers of the digestive system, the thyroid and the adrenal gland

Rare cancers in the head and neck area, such as nasopharyngeal cancer

Rare hormonal/endocrine cancers, such as phaeochromocytoma

Rare brain tumours, such as meningioma

Rare skin cancers, such as melanomas

There are also some cancers that are unknown

There is limited information about these cancers in children, I wouldn’t want to put the wrong information here. If you have a personal account of these rare cancers, please consider sharing your cancer story.

Read more about rare cancers at CCLG