Red flags to help spot childhood cancer

Red flags to help spot childhood cancer

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - Statistically, childhood cancer is relatively rare. Yet, cancer remains the number one disease killer of children in this country.

So, if the best way to fight cancer is to find it early, then knowledge is power.

Healthwise, we look at the red flags of childhood cancer that should at least take a child to the doctor to rule it out or begin treatment.

Dr. Mohamed Al Rahawan, a Pediatric Oncologist and Texas Tech Physician, says, "The symptoms are many. The most common are frequent headaches, trouble with a fever that doesn't go away, easy bruising, pale, fatigue. All those can be a sign of cancer."

He adds that in a typical year, Lubbock doctors see between 40 to 50 new cases of childhood cancer. More red flags would include unexplained weight loss or a mysterious lump or bumps on the body.

So how long do you wait, and watch, before asking could it be cancer?

Dr. Al Rahawan says, "The key here is if it persists for a while, and the while I define as two weeks."

That's not a timeline for cancer. He explains that it's just a reasonable time to begin further evaluation.

Time is not just important in terms of how long a problem persists. The time on the clock matters too, especially when regular headaches show up every morning.

He explains, "Morning headaches are concerning. That is because when kids lay down, the pressure in the head increases and typically will start morning headaches."

There's one more unique sign that may point to cancer. When you point a camera and shoot with a flash. Dr. Al Rahawan describes it like this, "If you have a  white pupil, a reflection that's not pink or red, a white reflection is a cancer sign for eye cancer called Retinoblastoma."

Now, before you study your pictures in a panic, remember, it's a consistent white glow in one or both eyes that may be a clue to cancer, or at least suspicious enough to show your doctor.

Fifty years ago, the survival for childhood cancer was just 10 percent. Today it's nearly 90 percent.

That is a significant improvement!  The National Cancer Institute says that is also a strong reminder that the best way to fight childhood cancer is with awareness and early detection.

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