Symptoms of cancer in children that parents should never ignore

A pediatric oncologist and hematologist looks at what falls “outside the box” of typical lumps, bumps and boo-boos

Signs and symptoms of cancer in children can vary and the warning signs may not always be obvious, according to Ashok B. Raj, M.D.

Dr. Raj is an oncology and hematology specialist with Norton Children’s Cancer Institute, affiliated with the University of Louisville.

He shared some common symptoms parents should watch for and have checked out.

  • Nausea that is persistent
  • Persistent vomiting with or without nausea
  • Unexplained persistent fever, or reoccurring fevers
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Frequent headaches that may be combined with vomiting, especially in the morning
  • Fatigue
  • Paleness
  • Sudden eye or vision changes that are persistent
  • Excessive bruising or bleeding
  • Swelling or pain in the joints, bones, pelvis, back or legs
  • Lump in the neck/armpit, leg, chest, stomach or pelvis
  • Recurring or persistent infections
Norton Children’s Cancer Institute, affiliated with the University of Louisville

Cancer care close to home

These symptoms may occur alone or in combinations. Dr. Raj points out many of these warning signs can occur fairly often during childhood, so he strives to help parents spot what falls “outside the box” of typical childhood lumps, bumps and boo-boos.

“If you notice a change in your child’s health or behavior, it’s important to take that seriously,” Dr. Raj said. “If symptoms persist and seem unexplainable, it’s best to have your child seen by a pediatrician or primary care provider.”

Dr. Raj admitted his best advice sounds like something from Yogi Berra: “The good news is for the most part, common things are common until they’re not, so be aware but not overly worried.”

Norton Children’s Cancer Institute provides access to new programs to treat rare tumors and benign blood disorders. It also focuses on pediatric oncology research and physician recruitment.