In all types of cancer, some of the body’s cells begin to divide without stopping and spread into surrounding tissues.

Causes of cancer

The most common cancer in children and young people (38%) is leukaemia, a cancer of the bone marrow. The cause is not fully known, but it is not hereditary. Other cancers develop in the form of tumours, these can occur on some of the body's organs or within tissue. Survival rates of childhood cancers have increased significantly over the last 20 years, due to improved diagnosis and treatment.

Symptoms of cancer
The main symptoms that schools will need to consider will be effects related to the treatment of cancers. Though most cancer patients will require periods of time in hospital, most will attend school either during or after their periods of treatment.

The main effects to consider are:

  • Low energy levels
  • Increased vulnerabilty to infections
  • Vision problems
  • Social and emotional difficulties arising from anxiety
  • Longer term effects may arise due to the nature of their treatments
  • More time may be required to process information and complete tasks
  • Difficulty in sustaining attention
  • Memory difficulties
  • Problems with general organisation and some abstract thinking

Treatments for cancer
The main types of treatment for childhood cancers include:

  • Surgery
  • Radiotherapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Stem cell transplant

One of the effects of treatment will be the lowering of the body's immune system and its ability to fight off infection. Measles and chicken pox can pose a serious threat. It is important that precautions are taken to ensure that contact with these diseases is avoided.

School should immediately notify parents / carers if measles or chicken pox have been reported in the school. 

The treatment regime is generally long, and during this time a student can experience severe disruption to their education.