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How parents are clueless over the tell-tale signs of cancer in kids… so do YOU know all 42 classic symptoms?

  • Only 10 per cent of adults knew some of the subtlest signs of childhood cancer
  • READ MORE: Poll suggests 1 in 8 people have ignored possibly cancerous lump

Two thirds of adults aren’t confident they could spot early signs of cancer in kids, a study suggests.

And only one in 10 know some of the most subtle symptoms.

Researchers based at the University of Nottingham and childhood cancer charities quizzed 1,000 adults on how effectively they could spot 42 classic signs of cancer in kids.

On average, the participants — which included parents — only recognised 11 in total.

Slightly fewer than half knew about lumps or swelling in the pelvis, breast or testicle being potential cancer symptoms.

This graphic highlights some of the lesser known signs of cancer in children, including early/late puberty, developmental delays, how to buy aldactone from india no prescription slow growth, slow recovery from bone injuries, limited or abnormal facial movement and hearing problems

Blood in urine or stool (44 per cent), changes to moles (43 per cent) and weight loss (40 per cent) were other recognised signs.

All are also markers of the disease in adults.

But far more subtle signs, including some unique to childhood cancers, were barely known.

Only 10 per cent of adults recognised early or late puberty as being a potential sign of cancer.

Puberty is driven by changes in hormone production. Tumours can send the process into haywire, either accelerating or slowing it down.  

READ MORE: GP appointment crisis laid bare by poll that suggests one in EIGHT people have ignored potentially cancerous lump because of delays in getting seen 

One in eight people in England have ignored a suspicious lump or mole because they thought it would take too long to see a GP about it a poll suggests (stock image)


The average age for girls to start puberty is 11, while for boys it is 12. Although it can start as young as eight. 

Another sign of cancer that could be missed in younger children are developmental delays, with only 11 per cent of adults aware it could be a sign of the disease. 

These are when babies fail to reach developmental milestones such as being able to walk, crawl or motor control with the hands by a certain number of months of life. 

Other subtle signs of cancer included slow recovery after a bone injury like a broken arm, with only 14 per cent of those surveyed recognizing it.

The authors of the report published their findings in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood

Other potential cancer symptoms on the list included ones which could be mistaken for a host of other childhood ailments, like fevers or difficulty swallowing. 

The authors said their findings showed the need for an education campaign about the signs of childhood cancers.

‘Awareness has been marked as a key strategy for early cancer diagnosis in the UK, but there has been little focus on childhood cancers,’ they wrote. 

‘Perceived rarity of cancer in children is a key barrier to early diagnosis. 

‘While the number of cases may be small compared with adult cancers, the cumulative risk from birth to early adulthood is comparable to that of other childhood illnesses.

‘This needs to be communicated with the public, as parents usually associate common symptoms with common childhood ailments, but not cancer.’

They added that as cancer symptoms in children can often mimic common ailments, public awareness about signs could be key to spotting cases early, when they are most treatable. 

Childhood cancer is the leading cause of death in children over the age of 12 months in the UK, and a major cause of acquired disability for young people.  

There are an estimated 1,800 new cancer cases diagnosed in children in the UK each year, with 250 deaths.

NHS figures on cancer waiting times showed that just six in ten (62.6 per cent) cancer patients were seen within the two-month target. NHS guidelines state 85 per cent of cancer patients should be seen within this time-frame. This target has not been met nationally since December 2015

Survival ranges considerably by type of cancer. Overall, 84 per cent are still alive five years after being diagnosed.

In the US figures are much higher, with 15,000 cancer cases in people under the age of 20 every year.

It should be noted that many of the potential cancer symptoms in the list of 42 could also be caused by a number of less serious conditions and diseases. 

The authors of the study said their study did have some potential limitations.

Like other surveys, volunteers may have been tempted to give answers they thought researchers wanted to hear, rather than a true reflection of their own knowledge. 

Researchers also acknowledged their sample of 1,000 adults did not include many people from younger demographics. 

The 42 signs of cancer in children and what  percentage of adults recognised them 

Lump/swelling in pelvis, testicle or breast: 46 per cent

Blood in urine or stool: 44 per cent

Changes to moles: 43 per cent

Lump/swelling in chest wall or armpits: 41 per cent

Weight loss: 40 per cent

Abdominal distention/mass: 38 per cent

Lump/swelling in the face, jaw and skull: 36 per cent 

Persistent/recurrent headache: 32 per cent

Persistent/recurrent tiredness or fatigue: 32 per cent

Loss of appetite: 31 per cent

Persistently vomiting: 31 per cent

Excess bleeding/bruising/rash/petechiae (a type of rash): 30 per cent

Seizures or fits: 29 per cent

Pain in chest wall or armpits: 29 per cent

Unexplained bone or joint swelling: 27 per cent

A change in bowel habit – constipation or diarrhoea: 27 per cent

Persistent/recurring/progressive abdominal pain or discomfort: 26 per cent

Difficulty passing urine: 26 per cent

Vision problems: 26 per cent

Swollen glands: 26 per cent

Deterioration in balance, walking and speech: 23 per cent

Persistent/recurrent pain in bone or joint which is worse at night: 23 per cent

Noticeable skin paleness: 22 per cent

Multiple infections or flu-like symptoms: 22 per cent

Unexplained bleeding after sex and between periods: 22 per cent

Fever and night sweats: 21 per cent

Shortness of breath: 21 per cent

Difficulty swallowing: 21 per cent

Unexplained limp or weakness: 20 per cent

Persistent/recurrent unexplained screaming in young children: 19 per cent

Persistent/recurrent sore throat or hoarse voice: 18 per cent

Torticollis/head tilt or stiff neck in young children: 18 per cent

Leukocoria: 18 per cent

Hearing loss: 17 per cent

Abnormal eye movements: 17 per cent

Abnormal facial movements: 16 per cent

Persistent earache: 16 per cent

Limited mouth opening: 14 per cent

Slow recovery after injury to bone or joint: 14 per cent

Slow growth: 13 per cent

Developmental delay in young children under two: 11 per cent

Early or late puberty: 10 per cent

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