Paediatric (Ped) Oncology

Paediatric (Ped) Oncology


Pediatric oncology deals with treating cancer found in children and adolescents. Even though most types of cancers are common in adults and children, children have different needs. They must be treated by someone who understands these needs thoroughly. With timely diagnosis and correct treatment, pediatric oncologists can cure more than 80% of children with malignant disease. But thanks to the ever-developing medical technology, for many cancers more than 90% of cancer patients who are kids can be treated entirely.

Opting for a pediatric oncologist is vital since they are professionally trained to treat kids and young adults.


The different types of cancer that can be found in children are as follows:

  • Primary cancer: The place where cancer first starts is called primary cancer.
  • Secondary cancer: When the cancer cells break down and spread through the other areas of the body, it is known as secondary cancer.
  • Spinal cord and brain tumours: There are one of the most common kinds of cancer in children. They are primarily found in the brain and the the spinal cord. Symptoms for such types of cancers may include dizziness, double vision, vomiting, etc.
  • Leukaemia: This type of cancer is found in the blood and bone marrow of children. It causes sudden weight loss, bleeding, and joint pain.
  • Lymphoma: Cancer that originates in the lymph node of lymph tissue is known as lymphoma. They can be of two types, Hodgkin's lymphoma and non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
  • Wilms tumour: This tumour mainly originates in the kidney and may cause lumps in the abdomen. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, and weakness.
  • Neuroblastoma: This type of cancer is usually found in infants. It commonly begins in the abdomen and may cause severe pain and high fever.
  • Retinoblastoma is a common type of eye cancer in children that begins in the retina. It usually occurs when genetic mutations occur in the retina's nerve cells. It is a severe condition and must be treated immediately to extend the child's life expectancy.
  • Sarcoma: It is a type of cancer that begins in the muscles and bones. It can be completely cured if it is diagnosed and treated in the early stages.
  • Germ cell tumours: These tumours occur when the reproductive organs of an unborn baby don't develop correctly. Most of the children diagnosed with germ cell tumours are usually entirely cured. Symptoms may include constipation, difficulty holding urine, etc.


Children must be checked for cancer if they showcase the following symptoms:

  • Sudden weight loss
  • Extreme weakness
  • Unexplained paleness
  • Sudden change in vision
  • Unusual swelling
  • Fever that doesn't go away
  • Constant Headaches with vomiting
  • Bruising and bleeding easily

These symptoms could be related to other infections, too. However, it's advised to check for cancer if the symptoms sustain for long periods of time.

How to find a pediatric oncologist?

You will be consulting a pediatric oncologist once your child is diagnosed with cancer. Your paediatrician will mostly refer you to a pediatric oncologist. Cancer in children is rarer than cancer in adults making it vital to research the doctors before choosing the right one for your child. Children are prone to contracting several infections, which could display the same symptoms as cancer. Only a pediatric oncologist will be able to diagnose it properly. Thus, relying simply on referrals won't be enough. To choose an excellent pediatric oncologist, you will have to:

  • Find doctors’ names by researching the database of medical associations
  • Compare the credentials of all the doctors
  • Speak to the staff of the doctors
  • Try to find out how many years of experience the doctor holds in the field
  • Enquire about the number of patients the doctor has treated so far in his career
  • Try to connect with a few past patients of the doctor
  • Find online reviews, if any
  • Ensure that the doctor is taking new patients
  • Check if the doctor searches for clinical trials which are suitable for his patients
  • Figure out if the pediatric oncologist is up to date with the latest advancements

Book an appointment with the doctor you feel would be the right fit. Sometimes pediatric oncologists might ask to retake specific tests or get additional tests done just to be sure and be prepared for it. After the tests, if they confirm it to be cancer, the doctor will suggest treatments based on the nature of the tumour. Cancer can be overwhelming both for the patients and parents; an excellent pediatric oncologist is one who understands this and provides you with mental and emotional support by referring you to a few psychologists.

How do pediatric oncologists diagnose cancer?

Doctors conduct a number of tests to diagnose pediatric cancer. Some of them are:

  • Biopsy: Here, a small part of the tissue is extracted and examined under a microscope to determine the type of tumour. The location of the tumour determines the type of biopsy to be performed.
  • Blood tests: Blood tests are vital to diagnosing blood-related cancers like leukaemia. They help determine the amount of red and white blood cells in the body. If the presence of specific cells is too high or too low, it usually indicates cancer.
  • Bone marrow aspiration: A small amount of the fluid is extracted using a needle and then sent to the lab to thoroughly examine and study the fluid.
  • Lumbar puncture: Here, a sample of the cerebral spinal fluid is extracted using a needle and examined in the lab to detect cancer cells. Patients will be administered anaesthetics before the test to numb their lower back area.
  • Ultrasound: It is an imaging test that uses sound waves to give the doctor a picture of the internal organs.
  • CT and MRI scan: A CT scan uses X-rays to give the doctor a clear image of the internal organs of the body, whereas an MRI scan does the same using magnetic fields.
  • PET scan: It is an imaging scan that makes use of radioactive substances to reveal a clear picture of the internal organs of one’s body. A safe amount of radioactive substance is injected inside the body, after which a scanner is used to detect the substance and create a picture of the body's internal organs.

If the above-mentioned tests confirm the presence of cancer, the doctor will suggest treatments based on the nature of the cancer. These tests help categorise and describe the nature of cancer thoroughly so that no additional diagnostic tests would be required. However, your doctor may repeat them during treatment to determine their success rate.

Last Update

Reviewed by Dr. Ramandeep Singh Arora, Associate Director, Paediatric (Ped) Oncology on 30-Oct-2022.


What are some common paediatric tumours?

Some common paediatric tumours include medulloblastoma (brain tumour), neuroblastoma (nerve cell tumour), Wilms tumour (kidney tumour), leukaemia (blood cancer), lymphoma (cancer of the lymphatic system), rhabdomyosarcoma (muscle tissue tumour), osteosarcoma (bone cancer), retinoblastoma (eye cancer), and germ cell tumours (tumours arising from cells that produce eggs or sperm).

When should I see a paediatric oncologist?

Unexpected shifts in vision, constant migraines, fever that will not go away, limping.

Can a CT scan show a brain tumour?

Yes, a CT (computed tomography) scan can often show the presence of a brain tumour. CT scans use X-rays and a computer to create detailed cross-sectional images of the brain, which can help identify abnormalities such as tumours.

Can treatment for childhood cancer affect a child's growth and development?

Yes, treatment for childhood cancer can potentially impact a child's growth and development, with potential effects on physical growth, bone development, hormonal function, cognitive development, and emotional well-being. Close monitoring and supportive care are important to mitigate these effects and support a child's overall well-being during and after cancer treatment.

What are the long-term effects of treatment for childhood cancer?

The long-term effects of childhood cancer treatment depend on the type of cancer, stage of treatment, type of treatment and the individual’s overall health.

What is the survival rate for childhood cancer?

The survival rate for childhood cancer depends on several factors, including the type of cancer, stage of cancer, treatment plan and individual patient characteristics.


FAQs reviewed by Dr. Prachi Jain (Pediatric Oncology), Consultant - Medical Oncology (Hemato - Oncology, Paediatrics), Cancer Care / Oncology on 07-July-2023.

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