Finding cancer in children and adolescents can, of course, vary based on the child and type of cancer. There are no widely recommended screening tests to look for cancer in children who are not at increased risk, so parents must listen to—and advocate for—their child.

Cancers in children may be challenging to recognize right away because early symptoms are often like those caused by much more common illnesses or injuries.

But, unlike common childhood illnesses and injuries, cancer symptoms don’t get better on their own.

Depending on where the cancer cells gather in the body, a child with cancer will show some symptoms that typically get worse over time.

Possible concerning signs and symptoms of cancer in children to talk to the doctor about:

  • unusual lump or swelling
  • unexplained paleness
  • worsening rash
  • loss of energy for no obvious reason
  • unusual behavior or movements
  • a sudden tendency to bruise or bleed easily
  • lasting pain in any (one) part of the body
  • unexplained fever that doesn’t go away
  • frequent headaches, often with vomiting
  • sudden eye or vision changes
  • sudden, unexpected, rapid weight loss

Keep in mind that any single symptom by itself is more likely to be caused by something else rather than a sign of childhood cancer.

If your child continues to have unusual signs or symptoms that don’t go away, you may want to have your child checked by a doctor. If nothing else, it gives you (and possibly your child) peace of mind.