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Symptoms of Childhood & Adolescent Cancers

Symptoms of Childhood Cancers Symptoms of Childhood Cancers

​By: Mary-Jane Staba Hogan, MD, MPH, FAAP

Childhood and adolescent cancers are rare, and ​​early symptoms may seem like everyday bumps, bruises, and infections. Unlike common childhood illnesses and injuries, however, cancer symptoms don't get better on their own. Depending on where the cancer cells gather in the body, a child with cancer will show some symptoms that typically get worse over time.

Examples of concerning symptoms to talk with your child's doctor ab​out:

  • an unusual mass or swelling

  • unexplained paleness or worsening rash

  • loss of energy for no obvious reason

  • unusual behavior or movements

  • a sudden tendency to bruise or bleed easily

  • lasting pain in any part of the body

  • unexplained fever that doesn't go away

  • frequent headaches, often with vomiting

  • sudden eye or vision changes

  • unexpected, rapid weight loss

Keep in mind that a single symptom by itself is less likely to be a sign of childhood cancer. Children who receive a cancer diagnosis usually have many different combinations of symptoms at the same time.  

What to do if your child has some of these symptoms

​If your child has a combination of these symptoms, or any symptoms that don't go away and seem to get worse, contact your pediatrician for a thorough evaluation. Depending on the doctor's findings, blood tests or imaging studies may be helpful. Your pediatrician may also refer you to a pediatric hematology oncology to test for and possibly diagnose cancer.


Regular check-ups with the pediatrician help keep your child healthy. They also help to ensure any suspicious symptom of childhood cancers are evaluated and treated promptly. Don't hesitate to talk with your pediatrician about any ongoing or worsening symptoms your child is having.

Additional Inf​​ormation:

About Dr. H​​ogan

Mary-Jane Staba Hogan, MD, MPH, FAAP, is an Assistant Clinical Professor at Yale School of Medicine, Pediatric Hematology Oncology section. She contributes educational commentary about cancer and blood disorders as the American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Hematology and Ongology education committee chairperson, Benign Hematology and Cancer survivorship policy review committees, and  for the editorial boards of AAP  Grand Rounds, Pediatrics, and PREP Self Assessment publications.​


Last Updated
American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Hematology/Oncology (Copyright © 2020)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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