Kids Cancer - Can it be prevented or cured?

Occurrence of Kids Cancer

Cancer is not something that regularly affects kids and often times it can be treated and cured. But it is a very heart wrenching event one even one child is taken because of this disease.

So What is the Cause of Kids Cancer (or Cancer in General)?

When cells start to grow abnormally and dividing out of control. This cluster of growing cells is what make up a tumor. Tumor's are referred to as being benign (not cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).

Treatment for Kids Cancer

The most common treatments for cancer is either chemotherapy. "Chemo" is the process of delivering anti-cancer drugs through an IV. The other is radiation or powerful X-ray like rays used to kill the cancer cells. Unfortunately with radiation the process is actually killing healthy cells as well. Often times it is like pushing a child toward death in order to kill the cancer. There are more and more devices now in the market place that can more specifically target tumors in the brain and other parts of the body with minimal impact to the surrounding healthy cells. Companies like Cyberknife and Accuray are leading this front.

My personal belief is that a great pre-emptive strike on your kids cancer is to ensure that your child is getting a full spectrum multi-vitamin and mineral supplement. These taken in conjunction with a healthy diet can go a long way to chronic disease prevention in their youth and later into adulthood. Other supplements like grape seed extract, omega-3 fatty acids and turmeric extract have been shown to help impede the development of cancerous cells.

Types of Kids Cancer

Probably the most common one that kids get is Leukemia. Leukemia affects the blood and the organs responsible for its development, such as the bone marrow. The marrow is the innermost section of bones where blood cells are first made. With leukemia, a child will product a lot of abnormal white blood cells.

White blood cells are usually the body's warriors against infection but with leukemia they don't function the way they're supposed to. In a person with leukemia, instead of protecting the person these abnormal cells will fill up the marrow because they are multiplying out of control. This makes it hard for the normal infection-fighting white cells to form.

Red blood cells and platelets are also getting crowded out as well. This then affects the amount of oxygen that is carried out to our body (red cell function) and the ability for the blood to clot properly (platelet function). These abnormal white cells can also move out into other parts of the body such as the liver and spleen via the bloodstream. A big concern is if they spread to the lymph nodes. In any of these areas the cancer cells can continue multiplying and building up in the body.

Brain Cancer is a very rare occurrence with kids. Of 73 million kids and teems in the US, roughly 3,100 were diagnosed with brain tumors every year. These tumors can start in the brain or travel from other parts of the body and take root there.

Lymphoma is the generalized term for a cancer that originates in the body's lymphatic system. This is a vast system of small glands, about the size of a bean, that fend off foreign invaders to our body.

When your child is sick (or you for that matter), the doctor will feel the lymph nodes in the throat to see if they are swollen. This is because they grow larger when fighting off infections. The spleen and thymus are also associated with the lymph system.

Tumors in the lymph system are clusters/groupings of abnormal lymphocytes - a type of white blood cell. These cells begin to multiply and crowd out healthy cells. These "lumps" of cells then cause the lymph nodes to enlarge.

Melanoma or skin cancer gets it start usually in our youth and shows up later in life. It is always best to make sure your child is covered in a 15 SPF or better when going outside. Melanoma can metastasize or mutate into another form of cancer. My best friend and I were lifeguards in high school. In his twenties he had some skin cancer removed. However later in his thirties, he discovered a small lump in in his throat which he ignored. By the time the doctor's went in to remove it they found that his lymph node was total consumed in cancerous cells that wrapped around his jugular. After radical surgery and years of continuing treatment he is cancer free. The cost was on side of his carotid artery and the neck muscles on the right side of his body.

If there is a downside to covering our kids with sunscreen, it would be that they may become Vitamin D deficient. It is advisable with all the current studies out that your provide your child with some vitamin D supplementation.

Common Signs of Kids Cancer 

Although cancer is not common amongst children and the chances are fairly slim that your child will develop some kind of kids cancer, it is still important that you must know what the typical symptoms of kids cancer are. 

When we say that chances are low, statistics show that about 150 children for every one million children in the USA will suffer from a childhood cancer. In spite of this statistic, cancer is one of the main causes of death amongst children. That is why it is important for every parent to know what the typical symptoms of cancer in children are. 

Leukemia and brain tumors are the two most popular types of cancer found in children of which Leukemia is the most common kind. Here are the most common signs of cancer in children:

  • Constant exhaustion and fatigue
  • Constant nausea
  • Constant weight loss
  • Early morning vomiting
  • Lumps or masses in and around the neck, armpits, abdomen, chest, or pelvic area
  • Recurring or constant fever with no explanation or for no particular reason
  • Regular infections
  • Severe headaches
  • Sudden and obvious paleness
  • Sudden vision changes that keep on and don’t change back to normal
  • Swelling or constant pain in joints, legs, back, or bones
  • Unexplainable bruising, rashes, or bleeding
  • Vomiting without feeling nauseous
  • White color behind the pupils

Once you observe any of these symptoms, keep in mind that many of these symptoms are very similar to typical viral infection symptoms. You need to be alarmed when the symptoms appear suddenly or you can not find an acceptable or explainable cause for the symptoms or when symptoms such as fever and nausea do not clear up. 

It is also very important to note that many of the mentioned symptoms are also typical for non malignant conditions. In order to make a proper and certain diagnosis involves a long process and is not possible with only one visit to your family doctor. Therefore it is vital to be observant and trust your own intuition. You know your child best and therefore your knowledge of your child along with a team of skilled medical professions plays an important part in the diagnosis and treatment of your child. 

Important Nutritional Facts for Kids Cancer Patients

It is unlikely that when your child undergoes treatment for cancer, that you pay much thought to a healthy diet and the nutritional value of the food you prepare. It is very much understandable that you have much more important things to consider, yet the value of good nutrition can not be underestimated for kids that have to fight cancer. 

It is very important for kids with cancer to build and keep up their strength and the only effective way is through a well balanced diet. Unfortunately with the side effects of chemotherapy kids with cancer finds it hard to eat healthy. Common side effects include vomiting, nausea, mouth sores, or a dry mouth, all which have a significant influence on their appetite. 

Other problems that affect their appetite may include an increased sensitivity to certain food smells and tastes, develop sensitivity for certain temperatures, having trouble to swallow their food, loss of their tasting senses, and develop the inability to properly absorb the nutrients in the food. 

Understandably all these factors make it difficult for those with kids cancer to eat and obtain all the important and extra nutrition that they need. This is where your creativity as a parent plays an important role. You can also benefit from consulting with a nutritionist that will help you to understand and learn how you can prepare meals that are filled with all the extra nutrition your kid needs. 

On average children with kids cancer need to increase their water, vitamins, minerals, fat, carbohydrates, and protein intake for a number of reasons. It has been found that children with cancer need to consume approximately 50% more protein that a child of the same age that does not undergo cancer treatment. This is because protein plays an important part in the growth and repair of body tissue and is vital for replenishing the immune system and building blood cells. With extra protein children with cancer tend to heal quicker from the negative effects caused by chemotherapy and radiation treatment and also help to prevent virus contamination.

Carbohydrates provide the body with much needed fuel to keep up with organ maintenance and functioning. It is only obvious that when a child has to fight cancer his body will need a whole lot of extra fuel to generate the required amount of energy. 

Fats are important to help the body to accumulate energy, transport certain vitamins in the blood, protect body tissue, and help to preserve calories that are especially helpful when a child is losing weight as a result of the treatment. Unsaturated fats are the best option in this regard.

Vitamins and minerals have various important functions such as assisting the body to absorb nutrients, and the development and growth of a child. In most cases children with cancer experience a lack of sufficient vitamins and minerals because of their inability to consume food properly or comfortably. In some cases the treatments they have to undergo also destroy some vitamins such as vitamin D and calcium. It is important though to talk to your doctor before you give your child any vitamin supplements during cancer treatment because it can interfere or have a negative effect on the treatment.

Tips for Helping Children with Kids Cancer Eat

All parents know that a healthy balanced diet with good nutrition is vital for the proper growth and development of children. Children with cancer even need more specialized nutrition to enhance their immune system and to help them build their strength to be able to fight back. 

The side effects of cancer treatment do not make this particular task easy. Children are likely suffering from sores in their mouths, feeling nauseous, experiencing bad tastes because of a dry mouth, and a general loss of appetite. All these things make it very difficult for parents to ensure their child with cancer eat properly. 

The following tips will probably make it easier for children with kids cancer to eat.

  • Start by giving your child smaller meals on a small plate frequently. Instead of having three meals a day, spread it over six mealtimes. Especially if he is suffering from a loss of appetite it will be much easier for him to eat only a little bit at a time than a large plate full of food at once. 
  • Make sure you always have some food ready to eat immediately. It often happens that they suddenly feels hungry and want something to eat. This does not mean you must have a fully cooked meal on hand. Crackers, fruit, snacks, breakfast bars, nutritional shakes, or healthy sandwiches are all good examples of ready made food that can be offered to your child. 
  • Be extra cautious when preparing food for a child with kids cancer. Remember that they are extremely susceptible to infections. Some doctors recommend to avoid raw food altogether. 
  • Some children are extremely sensitive to strong tastes and smells during their cancer treatment. The best is to keep meals as simple as possible. Pastas, breads, rice, and mild soups are good choices.
  • Stay away from foods with high acidity such as tomatoes, citrus fruits, lemonade, orange juice etc. This can be a problem especially if these kids struggle with mouth sores. 
  • Reserve drinks for between meals instead of during meals. Because liquids are much easier to consume it is likely that your child will rather have the liquids and not eating their food. Drinking liquids during meals also suppress their appetite and will curb their interest in eating.
  • Pay attention to the temperature of the food you offer. Children that undergo cancer treatment sometimes have problems to tolerate cold or hot foods. The best is to rather serve food at room temperature. 
  • Foods with fine texture such as pureed foods, shakes, smoothies, or soups are easier to consume. Try to make foods easier to swallow by making the texture finer. If your child finds it difficult to swallow, giving them food they can consume with a straw will certainly help. 
  • Those with kids cancer that have used steroid medicine are likely to be subjected to an increased appetite. They are also likely to experience fluid retention and gain weight. In this instance you should avoid processed or fast foods and snacks that are high in salt. Try to limit their salt intake in general. The key here is to make sure that your child does not consume empty calories by eating too much sweets and drinking too much sodas.

Always Talk with Your Pediatrician

Should your child exhibit any of the above symptoms or you have a general concern about kids cancer tell your pediatrician about it immediately. They will be able to assure you that nothing is wrong or provide a series of test to make sure your child isn't at risk.

Return to Kids Diseases from Kids Cancer 

Return to My Kids Best Fitness and Nutrition from Kids Cancer