When we think of cancer, we often think of it as a disease that affects adults. But did you know that babies can also develop cancer? Childhood cancer is rare, but it happens. In fact, according to the American Cancer Society, about 10,000 children under the age of 15 are diagnosed with cancer each year in the United States. As parents, it’s important to understand how babies can develop cancer and what signs to look out for. In this blog post, we will explore the different types of cancer that can affect babies, what causes them, and how they are treated.
Types of Cancer that Affect Babies
There are several types of cancer that can affect babies, including:
1. Leukemia: This is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow. It is the most common type of cancer in children, accounting for about 30% of all childhood cancers. There are several different types of leukemia, but the most common type in children is acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).
2. Neuroblastoma: This is a cancer that starts in the nerve cells outside of the brain. It is the most common type of cancer in infants, accounting for about 6% of all childhood cancers. Neuroblastoma can start anywhere in the body, but it most commonly starts in the abdomen.
3. Wilms tumor: This is a cancer that starts in the kidneys. It is the most common type of kidney cancer in children, accounting for about 5% of all childhood cancers. Wilms tumor usually affects children between the ages of 2 and 5.
4. Retinoblastoma: This is a cancer that starts in the retina, which is the part of the eye that detects light. It is the most common type of eye cancer in children, accounting for about 3% of all childhood cancers. Retinoblastoma usually affects children under the age of 5.
What Causes Cancer in Babies?
Cancer is caused by changes in the DNA of cells. These changes can be inherited from a parent, or they can happen randomly during cell division. In some cases, exposure to certain chemicals or radiation can also cause changes in DNA that lead to cancer.In babies, the causes of cancer are not always clear. However, some risk factors have been identified. For example, babies who are born with certain genetic conditions, such as Down syndrome, have a higher risk of developing leukemia. Babies who are exposed to high levels of radiation, such as those who receive radiation therapy for another condition, also have a higher risk of developing cancer.
How is Cancer in Babies Treated?
The treatment for cancer in babies depends on the type of cancer and how advanced it is. In general, treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and stem cell transplants.Surgery is often used to remove tumors that can be safely removed. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are used to kill cancer cells that cannot be removed through surgery. Stem cell transplants are used to replace damaged bone marrow with healthy bone marrow.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Can babies be born with cancer? Yes, it is possible for babies to be born with cancer. This is known as congenital cancer. However, it is rare. Q: What are the signs of cancer in babies? The signs of cancer in babies can vary depending on the type of cancer. However, some common signs include persistent fever, unexplained weight loss, and lumps or bumps on the body. Q: Can cancer in babies be cured? Many types of cancer in babies can be cured with early detection and treatment. However, the outlook can depend on the type of cancer and how advanced it is. Q: Is there anything parents can do to prevent their baby from developing cancer? There is no way to completely prevent cancer in babies. However, there are things parents can do to reduce their baby’s risk, such as avoiding exposure to radiation and ensuring their baby receives all recommended vaccinations. Q: Are there support groups for parents of babies with cancer? Yes, there are many support groups available for parents of babies with cancer. These groups can provide emotional support and connect parents with other families who are going through similar experiences.
Cancer in babies is rare, but it happens. It’s important for parents to be aware of the signs of cancer and to seek medical attention if they suspect their baby may have cancer. With early detection and treatment, many types of cancer in babies can be cured. If you are a parent of a baby with cancer, know that you are not alone. There are many support groups available to help you and your family through this difficult time.
I am a child development specialist with a strong passion for helping parents navigate the exciting and sometimes challenging journey of raising a child. Through my website, I aim to provide parents with practical advice and reliable information on topics such as infant sleep, feeding, cognitive and physical development, and much more. As a mother of two young children myself, I understand the joys and struggles of parenting and am committed to supporting other parents on their journey.