Types of children’s cancers

The types of cancers that affect children tend to be different to the cancers that affect adults. Because cancer in children is relatively rare, community awareness of children’s cancer isn’t as high as that of adult cancer. However, many parents find that understanding more about the cancer their child has helps them feel more in control and better equipped to manage the emotional journey that is childhood cancer. 

In this section, you’ll find information about the most common types of children’s cancers, including symptoms, risk factors, diagnosis, treatment, support and clinical trials.

Bone tumours

Bone tumours occur when abnormal cells in the bones grow in an uncontrolled way. There are 2 main types of bone tumours in children - osteosarcoma and Ewing sarcoma.

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Brain and other central nervous system tumours

The central nervous system (CNS) is the part of the nervous system that consists of the brain and spinal cord. There are many different types of cells in the brain and other parts of the CNS, and each of these can develop into different types of tumours.

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Germ cell tumours

A germ cell is the type of cell that develops into eggs (in the ovaries) or sperm (in the testicles). Germ cell tumours occur when abnormal germ cells grow in an uncontrolled way, and can develop before or after birth.

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Hodgkin lymphoma (Hodgkin disease)

Hodgkin disease is a type of cancer called a lymphoma. It occurs when certain types of white blood cells called lymphocytes grow in an uncontrolled way. Lymphocytes are part of the immune system that help our bodies fight infection.

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Kidney (renal) tumours

Kidney tumours are also called renal tumours. Kidney tumours occur when abnormal cells in the kidneys grow in an uncontrolled way. The most common type of kidney tumour in children is called Wilms tumour.

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Leukaemia

Leukaemia is a type of cancer of the blood and bone marrow. It occurs when the bone marrow makes too many white blood cells (lymphocytes), which are part of the body’s immune system to fight infections.

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Liver tumours

Liver tumours (also called hepatic tumours) occur when abnormal cells in the liver grow in an uncontrolled way. There are several different types of liver tumours that can occur in children.

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Melanoma

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that affects melanocytes, the cells in the outer layer of the skin. Melanocytes form melanin, which is the pigment that gives your skin its colour.

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Neuroblastoma

Neuroblastoma is a form of cancer that is made up of cells that are found in nerve tissues of the body, called neuroblasts. Many neuroblastomas start in the adrenal glands.

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Non-Hodgkin lymphoma

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is a type of cancer that occurs when certain types of white blood cells (lymphocytes) grow in an uncontrolled way. Lymphocytes are part of the immune system that help our bodies fight infection.

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Retinoblastoma

Retinoblastoma forms in the retina - the light-sensing area at the back of the eye. It usually occurs in young children, and can affect one or both eyes.

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Soft tissue sarcoma

Soft tissue sarcomas start in the cells of connective tissue. These include cells that make up our muscles, fat, lining of joints and blood vessels. Soft tissue sarcomas can therefore develop almost anywhere in the body.

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