Together is a new resource for anyone affected by pediatric cancer - patients and their parents, family members, and friends.Learn More
Every diagnosis of childhood cancer is different. But the journey typically begins when a child has signs and symptoms that prompt a parent to take the child to the doctor.
At first, the signs and symptoms of childhood cancer are similar to more common childhood illnesses and injuries. Because childhood cancer is so rare, the doctor may not suspect it at first.
The physician will complete a physical exam and ask about the patient’s medical history. The doctor looks at general signs of health, including signs of disease, such as lumps or anything else that seems unusual.
The doctor may also perform a neurological exam.
Depending on the patient’s signs and symptoms, the physician may order:
When choosing a diagnostic test, the doctor may consider:
Parents have the right and should ask questions about the tests that are being performed. These questions may include:
If test results suggest cancer, the doctor will likely will refer the patient to a pediatric cancer center for further diagnostic tests.
For most types of cancer, a biopsy is the only way to diagnose cancer accurately. In a biopsy, the doctor takes a small sample of tissue for testing in a laboratory. If a biopsy is not possible, the doctor may suggest other tests that will help make a diagnosis.
Other tests are then needed to pinpoint the specific type of cancer, its stage, and genetic makeup. A doctor and perhaps other members of the medical team will discuss the results of tests with the parents and work with them to develop a treatment plan. Doctors use the results of these tests to determine the best treatment for each patient.
Reviewed: June 2018