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ABSTRACT: Although cancer has an annual incidence of only about 150 new cases per 1 million U.S. children, it is the second leading cause of childhood deaths. Early detection and prompt therapy have the potential to reduce mortality. Leukemias, lymphomas and central nervous system tumors account for more than one half of new cancer cases in children. Early in the disease, leukemia may cause nonspecific symptoms similar to those of a viral infection. Leukemia should be suspected if persistent vague symptoms are accompanied by evidence of abnormal bleeding, bone pain, lymphadenopathy or hepatosplenomegaly. The presenting symptoms of a brain tumor may include elevated intracranial pressure, nerve abnormalities and seizures. A spinal tumor often presents with signs and symptoms of spinal cord compression. In children, lymphoma may present as one or more painless masses, often in the neck, accompanied by signs and symptoms resulting from local compression, as well as signs and symptoms of systemic disturbances, such as fever and weight loss. A neuroblastoma may arise from sympathetic nervous tissue anywhere in the body, but this tumor most often develops in the abdomen. The presentation depends on the local effects of the solid tumor and any metastases. An abdominal mass in a child may also be due to Wilms' tumor. This neoplasm may present with renal signs and symptoms, such as hypertension, hematuria and abdominal pain. A tumor of the musculoskeletal system is often first detected when trauma appears to cause pain and dysfunction out of proportion to the injury. Primary care physicians should be alert for possible presenting signs and symptoms of childhood malignancy, particularly in patients with Down syndrome or other congenital and familial conditions associated with an increased risk of cancer.
Evaluating the Child with Purpura - Article
ABSTRACT: Purpura is the result of hemorrhage into the skin or mucosal membrane. It may represent a relatively benign condition or herald the presence of a serious underlying disorder. Purpura may be secondary to thrombocytopenia, platelet dysfunction, coagulation factor deficiency or vascular defect. Investigation to confirm a diagnosis or to seek reassurance is important. Frequently, the diagnosis can be established on the basis of a careful history and physical examination, and a few key laboratory tests. Indicated tests include a complete blood cell count with platelet count, a peripheral blood smear, and prothrombin and activated partial thromboplastin times.
Survivor: What Does it Mean to be Cured? - Close-ups
ABSTRACT: Although cancer in children is rare, it is the second most common cause of childhood mortality in developed countries. It often presents with nonspecific symptoms similar to those of benign conditions, leading to delays in the diagnosis and initiation of appropriate treatment. Primary care physicians should have a raised index of suspicion and explore the possibility of cancer in children who have worrisome or persisting signs and symptoms. Red flag signs for leukemia or lymphoma include unexplained and protracted pallor, malaise, fever, anorexia, weight loss, lymphadenopathy, hemorrhagic diathesis, and hepatosplenomegaly. New onset or persistent morning headaches associated with vomiting, neurologic symptoms, or back pain should raise concern for tumors of the central nervous system. Palpable masses in the abdomen or soft tissues, and persistent bone pain that awakens the child are red flags for abdominal, soft tissue, and bone tumors. Leukokoria is a red flag for retinoblastoma. Endocrine symptoms such as growth arrest, diabetes insipidus, and precocious or delayed puberty may be signs of endocranial or germ cell tumors. Paraneoplastic manifestations such as opsoclonus-myoclonus syndrome, rheumatic symptoms, or hypertension are rare and may be related to neuroblastoma, leukemia, or Wilms tumor, respectively. Increased suspicion is also warranted for conditions associated with a higher risk of childhood cancer, including immunodeficiency syndromes and previous malignancies, as well as with certain genetic conditions and familial cancer syndromes such as Down syndrome, Li-Fraumeni syndrome, hemihypertrophy, neurofibromatosis, and retinoblastoma.
Leukemia: An Overview for Primary Care - Article
ABSTRACT: Leukemia is a clonal proliferation of hematopoietic stem cells in the bone marrow. The four broad subtypes most likely to be encountered by primary care physicians are acute lymphoblastic, acute myelogenous, chronic lymphocytic, and chronic myelogenous. Acute lymphoblastic leukemia occurs more often in children, whereas the other subtypes are more common in adults. Risk factors include a genetic predisposition as well as environmental factors, such as exposure to ionizing radiation. Symptoms are nonspecific and include fever, fatigue, weight loss, bone pain, bruising, or bleeding. A complete blood count usually reveals leukocytosis and other abnormally elevated or depressed cell lines. Patients with suspected leukemia should be referred promptly to a hematologist-oncologist. The diagnosis is confirmed by further examination of the bone marrow or peripheral blood. Treatment may include chemotherapy, radiation, monoclonal antibodies, or hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. Complications of treatment include tumor lysis syndrome and serious infections from immunosuppression. Leukemia survivors should be monitored closely for secondary malignancies, cardiac complications, and endocrine disturbances such as metabolic syndrome, hypothyroidism, and hypogonadism. Five-year survival rates are highest in younger patients and in patients with chronic myelogenous leukemia or chronic lymphocytic leukemia.