Early Red Flags and Warning Signs
Because other common childhood diseases and injuries sometimes mimic early signs of childhood cancers, parent and guardians need to be aware of early red flags and establish good communication with a child’s pediatrician or family doctor. The American Cancer Society has established a checklist of early childhood cancer signs that includes these symptoms:
*An unusual lump or swelling.
*Unexplained paleness and loss of energy.
*Easy bruising or bleeding.
*Ongoing pain in one area of the body.
*Unexplained fever or illness that does not go away.
*Frequent headaches often accompanied by vomiting.
*Sudden eye or vision changes.
*Sudden weight loss.
The Role of Parental Concern and Early Intervention
Brevard Health Alliance’s Pediatrician Dr. Cindy M. Nazario-Matos, points out that parental concern and observation, along with “gut instinct” that something may be wrong, are key to early testing and diagnosis.
“Parents know their kids better than anybody else. If they are having any kind of concerns, an appointment with a Primary Care Physician should be done as early as possible to clear any doubts,” she advises.
“Common childhood illnesses usually resolve in a short period of time, while cancer symptoms persist; rather than improve, they worsen.”
As you might expect, Nazario-Matos says detecting cancer signs in their early stages is a key to successful medical intervention.
“The earlier we approach a problem, the faster we may find a solution for it. Early detection of cancer is the number one key factor for successful treatment and a higher probability for cure.”
The BHA Pediatrician adds that good communication and a good relationship with a child’s primary care physician joins early detection as important tools in addressing childhood cancers.
“It’s very important for parents to have a primary care physician who they trust. Having a PCP who knows your child, will provide early identification and further evaluation of abnormal signs and symptoms suggestive of a cancer diagnosis. Having that good relationship with the PCP promotes open communication that makes it easier for parents to bring up concerns, however mild they may be.”
Nazario-Matos shares with parents that there are some early tools of detection that can help determine a possible childhood cancer diagnosis.
“Specific tests that may be used to detect early signs of cancer in infants-to-four-year-old’s can be a blood sample.
“A CBC (Complete Blood Count) test that shows a high or low number of WBC (white blood cells), not associated with an acute infectious disease like a virus or bacterial infection, will be a red flag for a cancer diagnosis. An elevated SED rate (erythrocyte sedimentation rate) is a non- specific sign of inflammatory changes within the body, which in the absence of an infection, will alert us of further testing to rule out a cancer diagnosis.”
The BHA Pediatrician notes that local resources for Brevard County parents dealing with a childhood cancer diagnosis include Candlelighters of Brevard, as well as these national organizations.
*Childhood Cancer Resources
*Leukemia and Lymphoma Society
*American Childhood Cancer Organization
*CancerCare for Kids