What are the differences between cancers in adults and children?
As a rule, the types of cancers that children get are often different from the types found in adults. Childhood cancers are often the result of changes in cells that take place very early in life, sometimes even before birth. Unlike many cancers in adults, childhood cancers are not strongly linked to lifestyle (like diet or exercise) or to environmental risk factors.
Although there are exceptions, childhood cancers tend to respond better to treatments like chemotherapy (chemo). But, chemo and radiation can have some long-term side effects, so children who survive their cancer will need to be followed closely for the rest of their lives.
Children (and teens) with cancer and their families have special needs that are best met by children’s cancer centers that work closely with the child’s main doctor. These centers have teams of experts with experience in treating children. They know the special needs of children with cancer. Besides doctors and nurses, the team can include psychologists, social workers, child life specialists, nutritionists, educators, and others.
Since the 1960s most children with cancer have been treated at these special centers. In the United States, most children with cancer are treated at a center that is a member of the Children’s Oncology Group (COG). All of these centers are part of a university or a children’s hospital. As we have learned more about treating childhood cancer, it has become even more important that treatment be given by experts with this kind of experience.
Last Medical Review: 01/24/2013
Last Revised: 01/24/2013