Does my child need to be screened for cancer?


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In 2021, about 1.9 million people in the US were diagnosed with cancer. Over 99% of these cancers occurred in adults. Because the risk of children developing cancer is much lower than the risk in adults, cancer screening recommendations have been focused on adult cancers.

While most children do not need any sort of cancer screening, childhood cancer is still a major problem. February is National Cancer Prevention Month, and here are some things you need to know from an expert at Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Center.

Childhood cancer survival and long-term effects

In the US, about 15,000 children are diagnosed with cancer each year, and it is the most common cause of death from a disease in school-aged children in our country. While we now can cure four out of five children who develop cancer, some survivors of childhood cancer have significant medical problems from their cancer treatments and may be at higher risk for developing cancer as adults.

The genetic component

From research done here at Texas Children’s Hospital Cancer Genetics Clinic and other hospitals, we have learned that about 10-15% of children who develop cancer were born with a genetic condition that increases their risk of developing the disease. Children with one of these conditions — including neurofibromatosis, tuberous sclerosis and Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome — can have very high risks of developing cancer and need careful screening and, sometimes, preventive surgery. When we are able to screen these patients, we can either prevent the cancer from developing or catch it early so that we have the best chance of curing it, and possibly reduce the amount of cancer treatment needed for cure.

Childhood Cancer Prevention and Screening Clinic

Each year at Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Center’s Childhood Cancer Prevention and Screening Clinic, our team of medical experts and staff cares for more than 300 children and adolescents who are at high risk for developing cancer. Our clinic team includes experts in oncology and psychology and has outstanding nursing and social work support as well. We work closely with other subspecialists at Texas Children’s Hospital, including geneticists, surgeons, gastroenterologists, dermatologists, ophthalmologists, endocrinologists and others to provide advanced cancer screening services and preventive surgeries when indicated. Our team also works with doctors and scientists from around the world to learn more about these rare genetic conditions that can increase the risk of childhood cancers and to improve the lives of the patients who suffer from them.