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Cancer can be hard to detect in children. Children with cancer may experience the following symptoms or signs. Sometimes, children with cancer do not show any of these symptoms. Or, these symptoms may be caused by a medical condition that is not cancer.


Many of the symptoms can be described using an acronym provided by The Pediatric Oncology Resource Center. If you are concerned about a symptom or sign on this list, please talk with your child’s doctor.


C ontinued, unexplained weight loss

H eadaches, often with early morning vomiting

I ncreased swelling or persistent pain in the bones, joints, back, or legs

L ump or mass, especially in the abdomen, neck, chest, pelvis, or armpits

D evelopment of excessive bruising, bleeding, or rash


C onstant infections

A whitish color behind the pupil

N ausea that persists or vomiting without nausea

Constant tiredness or noticeable paleness

E ye or vision changes that occur suddenly and persist

R ecurring or persistent fevers of unknown origin


Your child’s doctor will ask you questions about the symptoms your child is experiencing to help find out the cause of the problem, called a diagnosis. This may include how long your child has been experiencing the symptom(s) and how often.


If cancer is diagnosed, relieving symptoms and side effects remains an important part of cancer care and treatment. This may also be called symptom management, palliative care, or supportive care. Be sure to talk with your child’s health care team about symptoms your child experiences, including any new symptoms or a change in symptoms.

Signs & Symptoms of Childhood Cancer

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