Childhood Cancer at a Glance

Childhood Cancer Facts

  • Pediatric cancer is the leading cause of death by disease for children under the age of 18, killing more kids than asthma, diabetes, cystic fibrosis and AIDS combined.
  • Each school day, enough children are diagnosed with childhood cancer to empty two classrooms.
  • The number of children diagnosed with cancer in the U.S. each year puts more potential years of life at risk than any single type of adult cancer.
  • Childhood Cancers are cancers that primarily affect children, teens, and young adults. When cancer strikes children and young adults it affects them differently than it would an adult.
  • The average length of treatment from diagnosis to either cure or remission is about 3 years.
  • Some treatments can last approximately 2 1/2 years.
  • An average treatment cost can be approximately half a million dollars per child.
  • Cancer in childhood occurs regularly, randomly, and spares no ethnic group, socioeconomic class, or geographic region.
  • Among ethnic groups, white children are most likely to develop cancer.
  • Childhood cancer is not a single disease, but rather many different types that fall into 12 major categories. Common adult cancers are extremely rare in children, yet many cancers are almost exclusively found in children.
  • Among the 12 major types of childhood cancers, leukemias (blood cell cancers) and cancers of the brain and central nervous system account for more than half of the new cases.
  • Children are out of school for lengthy periods, missing both their education and friends. For many cancers, treatments can affect how children learn in the short or long-term.
  • The cause of most childhood cancers are unknown and at present, cannot be prevented.
  • While everyone associates the color pink with breast cancer, not everyone knows that every type of cancer is assigned a color. People use these colors to make bracelets, ribbons, and many other things that can be sold to benefit an organization. Childhood Cancer is assigned the color GOLD because children are more precious than gold.


  • Childhood cancers are mostly those of the white blood cells (leukemia's), brain, bone, the lymphatic system and tumors of the muscles, kidneys and nervous system. Each of these behaves differently.
  • Cancers in very young children are highly aggressive and behave unlike malignant disease seen at other times of life.
  • The median age for childhood cancer is six.
  • Children frequently have a more advanced stage of cancer when they are first diagnosed.
  • 80% of children show that cancer has spread to distant sites in the body when the disease is first diagnosed.

Current Treatment Options

A child with cancer must be diagnosed precisely and treated by clinical and laboratory scientists who have expertise in the management of children with cancer.

Advances in treatment have been made in some childhood cancers; however, many cancer types offer very aggressive treatments with lower survival rates.

Many treatments include: several rounds of chemotherapy, tumor removal, radiation therapy, bone-marrow-transplantation, and various clinical procedures.


Childhood Cancer Detection

Attempts to detect childhood cancers at an earlier stage, when the disease would react more favorably to treatment, have largely failed. Young patients often have a more advanced stage of cancer when first diagnosed.

Signs and Symptoms

C ontinued, unexplained weight loss
H eadaches, often with early morning vomiting
I ncreased swelling or persistent pain in bones, joints, back, or legs
L ump or mass, especially in the abdomen, neck, chest, pelvis, or armpits
D evelopment of excessive bruising, bleeding, or rash
C onstant infections
A whitish color behind the pupil
N ausea which persists or vomiting without nausea
C onstant tiredness or noticeable paleness
E ye or vision changes which occur suddenly and persist
R ecurrent or persistent fevers of unknown origin


Largely unknown. Currently, there are no established guidelines for childhood cancer prevention.