What are the differences between cancers in adults and children?
The types of cancers that children and teens 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.
In most cases, childhood cancers tend to respond better to treatments like chemotherapy (chemo). But, chemo and other treatments can have long-term side effects, so children who have had 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, working 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.
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.
When a child or teen has cancer, it affects every family member and nearly every aspect of the family’s life. You can read more about coping with these changes in our document Children Diagnosed With Cancer: Dealing With Diagnosis.
Last Medical Review: 06/13/2014
Last Revised: 01/27/2016