Progress in the treatment of child cancer has been significant in the last four decades, increasing the chances of cure and survival. It is estimated that about 80% of children with cancer can be cured if diagnosed early and the disease is treated in specialised centres. Despite child cancer having a short period of latency, high rates of proliferation and a strongly invasive nature, it responds better to treatment when discovered early. When the treatment is successful, patients heal, resume family life and reintegrate into social life. Early diagnosis of childhood cancer is a challenge because the signs and symptoms are not necessarily specific and for this reason children/adolescents are referred to treatment when the disease is already in an advanced stage. A late diagnosis may occur due to the type of tumour, patient‘s age, clinical suspicion, severity of the disease, care provided by the parents or their perceptions concerning the disease, parents’ level of education, distance from a treatment centre, and the healthcare system. Therefore, it is important that health professionals, are able to recognise the disease and its main forms of presentation. The early signs of cancer in children, are reviewed: continued, unexplained weight loss, headaches, often with early morning vomiting, increased swelling or persistent pain in the bones, joints, or legs, lump or mass in abdomen or any location, excessive bruising, bleeding, or rash, frequent, or persistent infections, a whitish colour behind the pupil, eye or vision changes, recurring or persistent fevers of unknown origin.
Conclusion Contribution of the family doctor and paediatrician in early diagnosis of cancer in children is crucial. A few days earlier can save lives.
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