Paediatric Cancer - Overview

Paedriatic cancers are types of cancers that occur in children and young adults aged up to fourteen years. The type of cancers that develop in newborn and young adults, their signs, symptoms, diagnostic measures and treatment methods may vary from adults and thus, need specialised attention.

Types of Paediatric Cancer

Sarcomas, Leukaemia, brain and spinal cord tumours, Neuroblastoma, Wilms tumour, lymphoma, Retinoblastoma, and bone cancer are some of the most common cancer variants in children and young adults.

Some of the other common cancers impacting the younger population are:

  • Breast cancer
  • Lymphomas (non-Hodgkin and Hodgkin)
  • Melanoma
  • Cancers of the female genital tract (cervix and ovary)
  • Head and Neck Cancers

These variants of paediatric cancers may emerge at different times, in different age groups and may exhibit varying degrees of symptoms and complications. Watching out for any potential signs and symptoms is highly recommended.

Signs & Symptoms of Paediatric Cancers

Identifying cancer in children and young adults is often very difficult as the symptoms are similar to common illnesses. It is recommended for parents and caregivers to opt for periodic health check-ups to ensure that the diagnosis happens on time. It is also recommended not to self diagnose or confuse the signs and symptoms with other common health ailments

Some of the common symptoms of paediatric cancer in children are:

  • Unusual lump or swelling in the body
  • Unusual fever or illness, or loss of energy
  • Frequent vomiting and headaches
  • Sudden changes in the vision
  • Uncharacteristic weight loss
  • Constant tiredness and paleness
  • Frequent infections
  • Painful joints and muscles
  • An abnormally large head
  • Delayed developmental milestones

Most of the above symptoms can also be experienced because of other infections or illnesses. Depending on the type and area of cancer being developed, there might be other symptoms that a child can experience.

Paedriatic Cancer Diagnostics and Treatment

The diagnosis of paediatric cancer consists of different tests. The following factors will be considered while choosing a diagnostic test.

  • The type of cancer
  • Child’s age and overall health
  • Signs and symptoms
  • Results of previous medical tests

Based on these factors, the medical professional will diagnose further and can also prescribe the following tests.

  • Blood tests to identify the presence of various cells in the blood.
  • Biopsy to examine a certain tissue under the microscope.
  • Imaging tests like CT scans or MRI scans ensure the accuracy and precision of the treatment.

The treatment of paediatric cancer will include various options like Surgery, Systemtic Therapy (Chemotherapy/Immunotherapy), Radiation therapy. It can be a single treatment method or a combination of multiple therapies.

Little bit about Radiation Therapy

Proton therapy is the most advanced form of radiation therapy with relatively less side effects and higher chances of success and recovery. It helps limit radiation exposure to a constrained area. Therefore, the impact on the nearby normal tissue is minimal. Not only does this help the children with effective treatment, but it also provides a better quality of life. Proton therapy on paediatric brain tumours, neck, lungs, heart, and other areas can benefit children extensively.

Advantages of Proton Therapy for Children

The precise delivery of radiation to the affected area makes paediatric proton therapy one of the best solutions. It is an effective treatment method for many childhood cancers, including lymphomas, tumours on different parts, sarcomas, and others. It is often used along with other treatment methods like surgery and/or chemotherapy to get the best possible results. Some of the key benefits associated with proton therapy for paediatric cancer are:

  • Proven results in children and young adults
  • Proton therapy causes fewer side effects on children as compared to other conventional treatments
  • Reduced risk of the impact of radiation on the surrounding otherwise healthy tissues
  • Better quality of life and normal growth of children
  • Fewer chances of secondary tumours development and recurrence due to exposure to radiation
  • Potential to increase the radiation dose based on the requirement

How Proton Therapy Works?

Proton beam therapy in paediatric oncology uses charged particles to deliver a high radiation dose directly to the tumour. Not only does this help in the precise impact on cancer, but it also reduces the impact on other nearby vital organs. X-rays release their energy both before and after the effect on the tumour. But proton therapy releases the energy only after hitting the tumour, making it safer.

Another significant advantage that makes proton therapy safer is that it reduces the chances of secondary tumours in the future. Children have growing bodies; thus, it is necessary to cure existing cancer and ensure the future. Therefore, proton therapy reduces the probability of children having cancer in the future.

Is Proton Therapy Safe for Children?

Since proton therapy targets cancer cells with higher precision, it is an excellent treatment method for children. In addition, it is a powerful and safer alternative to other traditional forms of radiation. However, when it comes to children, doctors often shy away from using radiation therapy on them. This is because children have a developing sensitive body and thus need the highest care.

How can patients prepare for proton therapy for paediatric cancer?

After the tests and diagnosis, as the cancer care team finalises proton therapy as the treatment method for paediatric cancer, they first take the patient through a simulation and imaging test to ensure that the radiation hits the right areas. While planning to undergo proton therapy for paediatric cancer, below are a few things to remember.

  • Get the details of the treatment process while asking the oncologists and the cancer care team the necessary questions. Ask about the treatment process, including the number of sessions required and what to expect during each session.
  • Ask about the potential side effects that the treatment can have and how they can be managed.
  • Ensure you follow the treatment plan while taking the necessary medications and attending the scheduled appointments.
  • Maintain your health by eating healthy and working out regularly. The nutrition team at APCC can help with the food and workout plans.
  • Seek help wherever required, including transportation, childcare, or other tasks throughout the treatment.
  • When you have concerns, ensure you raise them with the team without hesitation.

Which Paedriatic Cancer Patients Benefit From Proton Therapy?

Paedriatic cancer patients can benefit from proton therapy in several cases. While several factors like a patient’s age, location of the tumour, stage of cancer, and others can impact the efficacy, children with tumours in their head, neck, spine, lungs, heart, or other sensitive areas can reap the benefits of proton therapy. It helps in limiting the possible damage to kids whose bodies are still in a developing stage.

What Can Patients Expect from Proton Therapy for Paediatric Cancers?

The patient should know that the therapy can continue for 6 to 8 weeks. It can even continue further depending on the condition and the severity of the illness. The visit can last between 30 minutes to one hour. Most of the time is spent getting the child ready in the correct position for the therapy. Ensuring that the proper place is identified during the simulation is vital. It helps make the child feel comfortable and maximises therapy's impact.

The therapy is painless and doesn't require the patient to stay in the hospital. However, children under six years might be subjected to anaesthesia to keep them still.

What is the Cost of Proton Therapy for Paediatric Cancer?

The cost of the complete treatment might vary on an individual case basis. Many factors need to be considered while estimating the overall cost of the therapy. The patient's current condition and other health parameters are essential in determining the necessary treatment. If the cancer is diagnosed early, the cost might be relatively lesser.

Since proton therapy uses high-end technology and dedicated skills, the cost is comparatively more.














Dr. Shruthi Kakarala

Consultant Intensivist





FAQs Related to Proton Therapy for Paediatric Cancer

Paediatric cancer is a term used for cancers that occur among children between birth and 14 years old. They are very rare and can different from other adult cancers significantly.

Some common risk factors for paediatric cancer include:

  • Medical conditions
  • Genetics
  • Problems in development while in the womb
  • Exposure to radiation or infections
  • Previous cancer treatments

Proton therapy is a targeted beam therapy that uses a high proton beam dose to target the cancer cells and destroy them. It uses proton beams rather than X-rays for painlessly delivering radiation to treat different types of cancer.

Proton therapy can be highly beneficial for treating paediatric cancer because of its numerous benefits. The treatment method does not impact other critical surrounding organs and provides the patients with a better quality of life. Moreover, the chances of cancer coming back are also significantly lower.

While no concrete evidence proves that proton therapy is more effective than other traditional paediatric treatment methods, it has its advantages. It is an excellent treatment method for paediatric cancer patients as it limits radiation exposure and ensures the safety of healthy and growing tissues. But further studies will be required to prove the effectiveness of proton therapy compared to other traditional methods.

Proton therapy is usually helpful in shrinking solid tumours with minimal impact on the nearby normal tissue. It is one of the most effective treatment methods for cancers in children. The therapy has lower side effects and significantly lesser chances of secondary tumours.

The beams used during the standard therapy release energy before and after the impact. But the proton therapy releases the energy only during impact. This helps in preventing any damage to the nearby critical organs. Proton energy can also help in sending a higher dose of radiation to the affected area. Thus, the doctor has better control over the overall therapy.

It is essential to know that proton therapy is highly specialised and thus unavailable in all cancer treatment centres. If you are on the lookout for the best paediatric proton therapy centres, you won’t have to look beyond Apollo Proton Cancer Centers. Armed with state-of-the-art infrastructure, an esteemed panel of oncology and proton therapy experts, a multi-disciplinary team of medical staff with the latest technical and diagnostic know-how, Apollo Proton Cancer Centres are your go-to destinations for availing of proton therapy treatments for paediatric cancers.

Proton therapy can be beneficial for almost all cancer patients. The benefits of proton therapy are unprecedented over traditional methods. But it is always advisable to consult a healthcare professional to get further details. Depending on the patient's condition and other criticalities, proton therapy can help treat cancer.