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Information and resources on childhood cancer 

In this section, patients and family members alike can find resources and information about childhood cancer, whether you are a parent or carer; a health or social care professional caring for children in a low or middle-income setting, or a child or young person living with or beyond a cancer diagnosis, you can find information.

What is Childhood Cancer?

Ordinarily, cells divide in an normal and controlled way, but if for some reason the process gets out of control, the cells carry on dividing. In many cases these cells develop into an abnormal mass of tissue that forms when cells grow and divide more than they should or do not die when they should called tumours. Tumours are either benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Doctors can tell if a tumour is benign or malignant by performing a biopsy (removing a piece of tissue and examining a small sample of cells under a microscope).

In a benign tumour, cells do not spread to other parts of the body and  are not cancerous, keeping to themselves. However, they may carry on growing at the original site, and may cause future problem by pressing on surrounding organs.

In a malignant tumour, the cancer cells have the ability to spread beyond the original area of the body. If the tumour is left untreated, it may spread into surrounding tissue.

Cancer can occur in numerous parts of the body – there are more than 200 different types of cancer, each with its own name and treatment. Cancer can occur in organs of the body such as the kidney or the brain. These are sometimes called solid tumours.

The types of cancers that occur most often in children are different from those seen in adults.

Sometimes cells break away from the original (primary) cancer. They can spread to other organs in the body through the bloodstream or via the lymphatic system. When the cancer cells reach a new area they may go on dividing and form a new tumour. This is known as a secondary cancer or a metastasis. Cancer can also occur in the blood cells in the bone marrow (leukaemia) or in the lymphatic system (lymphoma).

How Common is Childhood Cancer?

Types of Cancer in Children

  • Leukemias 31%

  • Brain and spinal tumours 26%

  • Lymphomas 10%

  • Soft tissue sarcomas 7%

  • Neuroblastoma 6%

  • Kidney tumours 5%

  • Bone tumours 4%

  • Germ cell tumours 3%

  • Retinoblastoma 3%

  • Liver tumours 2%

  • Other 4%

A national response is required to give every child the best chance of surviving cancer — to raise awareness, improve access, and offer the best possible treatment, palliative care and support for children and adolescents and their families. 
Learn more about palliative childhood home health.
Cancer is hard. Other family members such as grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles or other close family relatives often have reactions similar to those of parents and may struggle to deal with some of the same emotions.

Diagnosis means finding out if your child has cancer and, if so, what type of cancer they have. Doctors will do this by assessing your child and their symptoms, and by doing tests.

Various tests and scans will be done to diagnose your child’s illness and to monitor your child throughout treatment. 

  • So that the cancer or leukemia can be diagnosed more accurately. Oftentimes, it is hard to tell the difference between specific types of cancer. Your child’s pediatrician may talk to other doctors to ask their opinion and advice about the diagnosis in question.
  • To see where the cancer is in the body and whether or not it has spread.
  • To assess your child’s general health, as this may affect the types treatment offered.
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