Pediatric Cancers

The precision of proton therapy gives physicians the best tools to treat the pediatric patient with the lowest dose of radiation needed to cure the cancer while avoiding radiation exposure for the maximum amount of healthy tissue.

Pediatric Cancers Treated

Brain Tumors

Bone and soft tissue sarcomas are cancerous regions that begin in any part of the body.

Sarcomas

Bone and soft tissue sarcomas are cancerous regions that begin in any part of the body. Representing about 15 percent of all pediatric cancers, about 60 percent of sarcomas begin in an arm or leg, 30 percent in the abdomen and 10 in the head or neck.

Retinoblastoma & Neuroblastoma

Neuroblastomas are tumors that form in the nervous system of young children, specifically in the areas outside of the brain and spinal cord.

Lymphomas

Lymphomas are cancers of the immune system, located in the lymph nodes. The majority of individuals treated with traditional radiation therapy – usually children and young adults – are cured.


Proton Therapy for Pediatric Cancers

Proton therapy offers many advantages when treating cancers in children, adolescents and young adults. In fact, the American Society of Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) ranks using proton therapy to treat solid tumors in pediatric patients with the highest importance (ASTRO Model Policy, 2014).
Because children and adolescents are growing, their tissue is more sensitive to radiation and its potential for negative effects.

Brain Tumors

A brain tumor is the result of uncontrolled growth of cells in the brain. Primary tumors start and grow in the brain, while secondary tumors form because a tumor located in another part of the body has metastasized.

Neurological Exams are Used for Diagnosis

Neurological exams include checking vision, hearing, balance, coordination and reflexes. These tests provide clues about the area of the brain impacted by a tumor.

Various Factors Impact Classification

Tumor classification is dictated by various factors, including the exact site of a tumor, the type of tissue involved and whether the tumor is cancerous.

When treating patients battling childhood cancer, reduction of negative side effects is a primary concern. Because of its precision, proton therapy is one of the best treatment options available for treating pediatric cancer. It’s effective, results in a reduction of damage to the organs and tissues surrounding the affected area and minimizes negative side effects, including developmental delays, hearing loss, damage to salivary glands and hormone deficiencies.


Pediatric Sarcoma

Bone and soft tissue sarcomas are cancerous regions that begin in any part of the body. Representing about 15 percent of all pediatric cancers, about 60 percent of sarcomas begin in an arm or leg, 30 percent in the abdomen and 10 in the head or neck.

Symptoms

Symptoms of sarcoma often do not appear in the early stages of the cancer. Typical symptoms include:

  • Pain if a tumor presses on nerves or muscles
  • A noticeable lump or swelling
  • A blockage in the stomach or intestines or gastrointestinal bleeding (if tumor is in abdomen/digestive tract)

Diagnosis

When diagnosing a sarcoma, a physician will most likely complete a physical exam and various imaging tests, including x-rays, computerized tomography (CT) scans, ultrasounds, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET). A physician may also choose to complete a biopsy, removing an area of affected tissue to examine for cancer.

Treatment

When delivering proton treatment, physicians are able to aggressively treat tumors with high doses of protons while protecting surrounding tissue. Because the protons enter the body at the targeted spot, then stop, removing the exit dose, the sensitive tissue that usually surrounds the sarcoma will receive less secondhand radiation.


Retinoblastoma

An eye cancer that most commonly affects children, retinoblastoma tends to occur before the age of two and is most often the result of a gene mutation that has been inherited. If the tumor is localized, the chance of a cure is incredibly high, with more than 90 percent of cases cured.

The Retina Sends Signals to the Brain

Retinoblastoma begins in the retina, the sensitive lining on the inside of the eye that senses light.

 Children Most Commonly Impacted

Adults are rarely diagnosed with retinoblastoma. It is the most common form of eye cancer in children.

Symptoms

Common symptoms of retinoblastoma include:

  • White color in the pupil of the eye
  • Eyes that appear to be looking in different directions
  • Redness of the eye
  • Bulging of the eye

Diagnosis

When diagnosing retinoblastoma, a doctor may complete an eye exam to determine the cause of symptoms. Imaging tests also may be used, including ultrasounds, computerized tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Treatment

When a child with retinoblastoma is treated, it’s often through a combination of options that ensures that the eye and vision will remain intact. This may include cryotherapy, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. However, with its precision and control, proton therapy may be used to eradicate cancerous cells in a tumor while preserving healthy ocular tissues.


Neuroblastoma

Neuroblastomas are tumors that form in the nervous system of young children, specifically in the areas outside of the brain and spinal cord. They often appear in the chest or abdomen, occurring most often in children 5 and younger, the genetic mutation occurring during pregnancy or shortly after birth.

Multiple Treatments Often Required

Neuroblastoma treatment is dependent on various factors, with some requiring multiple
treatments.

Commonly Arises in Adrenal Glands

Developed from immature nerve cells, neuroblastoma is commonly found in the cells of the kidneys.

Symptoms

The symptoms of neuroblastoma vary depending on the area that is affected. General symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Lumps of tissue under skin
  • Eyeballs that appear to protrude from sockets
  • Back pain
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Dark circles around eyes

Symptoms of neuroblastoma in the chest

  • Wheezing
  • Chest Pain
  • Drooping eyelids
  • Unequal pupil size

Symptoms of neuroblastoma in the abdomen

  • Swelling in the legs
  • Abdominal pain
  • A mass under the skin
  • Differences in bowel movements (i.e. diarrhea)

Diagnosis

In order to diagnose neuroblastoma, a doctor may conduct a physical exam to check symptoms and complete a urine or blood test to check for abnormal levels of various chemicals that may be the result of neuroblastoma cells.
Imaging tests are also often used to check for tumors, including x-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computerized tomography (CT) scans and ultrasounds. If a mass is found, a physician may remove a sample of tissue for examination and testing (biopsy).

Treatment

Proton therapy provides targeted treatment with minimal side effects and is best suited for patients that have tumors near a vulnerable organ, including the heart, eye or lung. Physicians will be able to offer effective treatment with reduced impact to these critical organs.


Lymphomas

Lymphomas are cancers of the immune system, located in the lymph nodes. The majority of individuals treated with traditional radiation therapy – usually children and young adults – are cured.

Lymphomas in Children Often Aggressive

Intermediate and high-risk lymphomas, which are quick to spread but typically respond well to treatment that is intensive, are more common in children

Lymph System Filters Fluid in Tissues

The lymph systems is a network of nodes and vessels that remove bacteria from lymph fluid and produce antibodies that actively fight disease.

Symptoms

If one or more of these symptoms occur, see your doctor. Symptoms of childhood lymphoma may include:

  • Painless swelling of lymph nodes
  • Fever
  • Itching
  • Excessive night sweats
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss

Diagnosis

Physicians may complete a lymph node biopsy in order to diagnose lymphomas. This involves removing a piece of the lymph node for examination. Various imaging tests may be used as well, including x-rays, ultrasounds and computerized tomography (CT) scans, among others.

Treatment

With traditional treatments, children often experience significant side effects, including secondary cancers later in life, such as breast cancer. With pencil beam capabilities that precisely target treatment areas, proton therapy is a treatment method less likely to lead to significant side effects, such as heart disease and secondary cancers, when compared to traditional radiation methods. Less healthy tissue is exposed to radiation, allowing physicians to successfully treat the cancerous cells and reducing the likelihood of secondary cancers.

Other Rare Tumors

Physicians often utilize radiation as a treatment method for many rare tumors found in children. If a tumor is located in the head, chest, neck and abdomen or near vital organs, proton therapy is a solution that may be the best for children with these rare diseases because of the ability to target cancerous cells with a lower risk of side effects and transmission of radiation to healthy tissue.