Cancer in Children and Adolescents: Unique Challenges and Treatment Approaches


Children and adolescents with cancer represent a specific patient population. In children ages 1 to 14, cancer is the second leading cause of death after unintentional injuries.


The most common types of cancers for children and adolescents (ages 0 to 19) are 

  • Leukemias, cancers of the blood or bone marrow cells
  • Brain and central nervous system tumors
  • Lymphomas, cancer of the lymph nodes or glands
  • Cancers of the spine
  • Bone cancer 


The impact of childhood cancer translates into years of life lost, inequalities and emotional, social and economic difficulties. The challenges faced by children and adolescents with cancer start from the first onset of symptoms and continue through treatment and go beyond that. It is not only them but their families too who face unique challenges.


  • Delays in diagnosis

Cancers in children and young adults are often found at a later stage than they are in other age groups. This can sometimes complicate treatment.



  • Treatment issues

It’s not clear with children whether they’re best treated by pediatric oncologists or by oncologists as not all doctors are familiar with treating cancers in teens.



  • Challenging patients

Some teens might not give the treatment the importance it needs to be given due to a misunderstanding of the seriousness, resentment over having to deal with it, or even fear.


  • Social and emotional issues

Teenage is a time of significant change that comes with a lot of things including establishing their own identities. A diagnosis of cancer can throw all of these things into disarray.


  • Physical, emotional, and social changes

Dealing with physical changes that often result in hair loss, weight gain, scars and then having to become more reliant on other people plus having concerns about being treated differently.


  • Concerns about dating and starting a family

Cancer can get in the way of relationships, school, work, and other parts of life. It brings the fear of being discriminated against, seclusion and the fear of not being able to be in a relationship.

The challenges are many and unique, however, many cancer survivors with support from family, friends, holistic health professionals and advancing treatments, thrive in spite of what they’ve had to face.


The types of treatment for cancers in children and adolescents are the same as those as adults. However, depending on the type and stage, the choice of treatment may vary. 

Fortunately, significant progress has been made in recent years in the treatment of childhood cancer. Treatment options including radiation therapy, surgery and chemotherapy have been used in combination with alternate holistic therapies and the long-term survival of childhood cancer has significantly increased.

It’s important to understand and discuss all treatment options, including their goals and possible side effects, to help make the decision that best fits your needs.


1. Surgery

A common treatment for early-stage cancers, the type of surgery depends on the type, size, and location of cancer. Teens have certain advantages when it comes to surgery as they usually have fewer health problems and have fewer concerns about anaesthesia


2. Radiation therapy

Cancer cells are killed using high-energy rays such as x-rays or particles. Teens are less likely to have major side effects than younger children as their bodies are no longer growing quickly. 


3. Chemotherapy and targeted drugs

Often used to treat cancers that have spread, chemo is the use of drugs that are injected into a vein or muscle. Chemo can cause side effects because they affect cells that are dividing quickly. 

4. Immunotherapy

It helps the body's own immune system fight cancer and some types of immunotherapy have now become an important part of treating certain cancers. 

5. Stem cell transplant

Also known as a bone marrow transplant is a way to give very high doses of chemo. It is a complex treatment that can cause serious, sometimes life-threatening side effects. 



Compared to the past, cancers in children and adolescents are more curable today. It is due to the availability of better testing to determine the specific types of cancers and better treatments. For many childhood cancers, the survival rates are now approaching upto 90%.


Want to learn more about cancer in children and adolescents? Check out our blogs related to cancer or find a provider who can help you address your questions about childhood cancer challenges and treatment approaches.



Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog or in any linked material is not intended and should not be considered a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. For holistic health advice and consultation, visit