Pediatric oncology is the broad practice of diagnosing, preventing and treating forms of cancer in children. Pediatric oncologists treat and prevent cancer using medications (chemotherapy), surgery, or radiation therapy. Many of these treatments are combined to provide personalized approaches to eradicating aggressive cancers.

What is it?

Pediatric oncology involves the treatment of benign and malignant tumors in children. Pediatric oncologists work with other specialists to develop strategies for short and long-term cancer treatment and management. Some of their responsibilities include interpretation of diagnostic tests, administering medications, and overseeing chemotherapy treatments.

What are the subspecialties?

Pediatric oncology is a branch of internal medicine and although there are no subspecialties within pediatric oncology, pediatric oncologists are constantly working with other specialists to develop treatment strategies. Associated subspecialties include pediatric orthopedics, neurology, hematology and endocrinology, among others.

What are the commonly associated medical diseases or symptoms?

Pediatric oncologists concern themselves with the treatment of tumors and cancer. Common forms of cancer among children include acute lymphoblastic leukemia, acute myeloid leukemia, Ewing’s sarcoma, Hodgkin’s disease, Neuroblastoma, Non-Hodgkin lymphoma and Osteosarcoma. Cancer symptoms vary greatly because different cancers affect different areas of the body. General symptoms include unusual lumps in the body, fever, fatigue, pain, unusual weight loss, and visible changes to the skin.

What are the commonly associated medical procedures?

Although each cancer treatment plan is unique, common procedures include stem cell transplantation and radiosurgery. Pediatric stem cell transplantation is a procedure that introduces healthy bone marrow cells into a child with damaged bone and immune system in order to restore the function of bone marrow. Radiosurgery uses a tool called a gamma knife, which uses high levels of radiation, to destroy a cancerous tumor.

Are there any preventative measures that I can take?

Researchers and clinicians are working together to solve mysteries surrounding cancer. There is no known absolute method of preventing cancer, but there are many healthy practices that professionals believe significantly reduce the risk of cancer. Lifestyle changes such as eating fruits and vegetables, limiting consumption of red meat and alcohol, avoiding tobacco, managing one’s weight and routinely exercising are a proper approach to cancer prevention.

What are the common misconceptions about this specialty?

A common misconception in pediatric oncology is that the presence of cancer is absolutely fatal. Cancer is a serious condition that deserves devoted medical attention, but can be very treatable if caught early enough. It is important to consult a primary physician if any unusual changes emerge in a child. Other misconceptions is that cancer is contagious and that cancer has a direct source. Cancer is not a contagious disease, and even in the case of receiving an organ transplant from someone with cancer, the chances of a resulting cancer is very low. There are some behaviors that are accepted as contributors to cancers, namely tobacco use. At this time, there is no evidence that sugar, artificial sweeteners, cell phones, or power lines produce cancer in children.


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