Diagnosis of childhood cancer.
Childhood cancer is uncommon but remains the leading cause of disease-related death in children. Symptoms are often vague or insidious; they may suggest a more common alternative diagnosis, and they are quite different from those associated with adult malignancy. The skilled office practitioner must consider cancer as a diagnosis when symptoms/signs persist or when multiple symptoms point toward a possible diagnosis of malignancy. Early diagnosis is critical, as survival rates have increased dramatically over the past decades. Prolonged delay in diagnosis is common, especially for brain tumors and certain lymphomas (Hodgkin disease). When one encounters symptoms suspicious for a childhood malignancy, it is imperative that the child be referred to a pediatric cancer center. These centers possess not only the ability to further evaluate and manage children with malignancy, but also are able to provide support for patients and their families. This evaluation may include further imaging, but often involves obtaining tissue for histologic review. This will require appropriate tumor or bone marrow biopsy, preferably before the start of treatment. Depending upon the type of suspected malignancy, direct tumor biopsy can be facilitated by imaging-guided biopsy (ultrasound, CT, or MRI), which spares the patient additional surgery. This optimally is performed by a skilled team: hematologist/oncologist, surgeon, radiologist, and pathologist. Best results depend upon early referral by the thoughtful practitioner.
Published In/Presented At
Raab, C. P., & Gartner, J. C., Jr (2009). Diagnosis of childhood cancer. Primary care, 36(4), 671–684. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pop.2009.07.002
Medicine and Health Sciences | Pediatrics
Department of Pediatrics