Mum and daughter talking

I am worried my child has cancer

Childhood cancer is rare and about 1,550 children (out of 11 million aged 0-14) in the UK are diagnosed with cancer every year. But it is one of the most emotive issues in medicine and every parent dreads to hear that their child has cancer.

Symptoms depend on the type of cancer and where it is in the body. They can also be quite vague, varied and are usually caused by something other than cancer.

What are the most common symptoms?

It is difficult to come up with a definitive list of symptoms as many are common in childhood. However, some general common symptoms are:

  • Feeling very tired and lethargic
  • Having lots of infections
  • Having flu-like symptoms that don't go away
  • Bleeding or bruising easily
  • Unexplained aches and pains that don't go away
  • Feeling a lump or unusual firmness anywhere on the body
  • Losing a significant amount of weight in teenagers

Brain tumours can be particularly hard to diagnose and can cause a number of symptoms. If you are worried that your child has a brain tumour, read HeadSmart's list of possible symptoms affecting different age groups.

What do I do if I think my child has cancer?

If you are worried about your child, make an urgent appointment to see your GP. Make a list of your child's symptoms and why you suspect it might be cancer. Your GP will then talk through your concerns with you and make a clinical judgement as to the next step forward.

Your child will either be referred to your local hospital for tests as a way of making a definite diagnosis or you will be advised to bring your child back to see the GP again if the problem persists. Your child will then be referred if the problem doesn't go away or gets worse.

You know your child best. If you still have concerns or are worried about your child, revisit your GP to see whether a referral is needed.

Did you know that typically a GP might see one case of childhood cancer every 20 years? They might never see a case in their whole career!