Find out about the possible symptoms of childhood cancer and when your child might be referred to see a specialist.
Cancer symptoms can be very similar to those of other childhood illnesses. And they vary between children. Remember the symptoms we list here are not usually cancer.
See your doctor if your child has any of these symptoms:
Print this page out and take it with you to the appointment. It might help you explain to the doctor why you are worried.
What happens next
Make sure you know what happens next. This includes where to go for any tests. Or, when to expect an appointment with another healthcare professional.
Ask when to make another appointment if your child’s symptoms don’t get better. Or if the symptoms get worse.
Seeing a specialist
It is normal to worry if your child has symptoms of any illness. Cancer is very rare in children. And because there are so many possible symptoms, sometimes your GP might ask you to wait to see if your child gets better. Or if they respond to treatment such as antibiotics.
There are general guidelines for all suspected childhood cancer referrals. These guidelines vary slightly between the different UK nations. They say that your child should see a specialist within 2 weeks of going to the GP if they have any symptoms that could be due to cancer. And with some symptoms, they should have a test, such as a blood test, within 48 hours. Some symptoms might mean your child is referred to a specialist immediately.
The first professional your child might see is a specialist children’s doctor. These doctors are called paediatricians. Your child is likely to see a specialist eye doctor, called an ophthalmologist, if they have symptoms related to their eyes.
These guidelines are very clear that that the GP should take the parent or carers concern about their child into account when deciding about a specialist referral.
Other ways of being diagnosed
Some children are diagnosed with cancer during tests for another condition. Other children are diagnosed with cancer after needing to go to A&E because their symptoms come on suddenly.
Seeing your child unwell and then learning about their cancer diagnosis in a short space of time can be very frightening.
Children’s cancer specialist team
Once your child is diagnosed they have their care planned by a specialist children’s cancer team. The team is used to planning care for, and treating, children with cancer. They explain everything to you and your family. There is lots of practical, emotional and psychological support available for children with cancer and their families.