Pediatric Blood Cancer

Pediatric blood cancer affects the production and function of a child's blood cells. While normal blood cells will reproduce and die, cancerous blood cells don't die and instead continually reproduce and crowd out the healthy blood cells. There are several types of pediatric blood cancer, with leukemia being the most common childhood cancer.

Causes of Pediatric Blood Cancer

The exact cause of pediatric blood cancers like leukemia is not currently known. There are some risk factors for childhood blood cancer, including:

  • Genetic syndromes such as Down syndrome or Li-Fraumeni syndrome
  • Inherited immune system problems
  • Having a sibling with blood cancer
  • Radiation exposure

Symptoms of Pediatric Blood Cancer

Symptoms depend on many factors and can vary from child to child. Some of the most common symptoms of blood cancer include:

  • Pale skin
  • Feeling tired, weak or cold
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Shortness of breath and trouble breathing
  • Frequent or long-term infections
  • Fever
  • Easy bruising or bleeding, such as nosebleeds or bleeding gums
  • Bone or joint pain
  • Belly (abdominal) swelling
  • Poor appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Swollen lymph glands (nodes)

Diagnosing Pediatric Blood Cancer

Your child’s healthcare provider can perform blood tests, including a complete blood count (CBC). If the results are abnormal, the provider may recommend a pediatric cancer specialist, many of whom can be found at Tampa General Hospital’s Cancer Institute. Various tests such as a bone marrow biopsy, X-ray, ultrasound and lab tests of blood and bone marrow samples can be done for an accurate diagnosis.

Treatments for Pediatric Blood Cancer

As with other types of cancer, there's currently no cure for blood cancers like leukemia. Before treating the cancer itself, treatments such as blood transfusions and antibiotics may be needed to address low blood counts, bleeding or infections. Treatment options for pediatric blood cancer include:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Immunotherapy
  • Stem cell transplant
  • Targeted therapy