Symptoms and diagnosis of cancer in children and teenagers

The symptoms of cancer in children depend on the location of the tumour. If you notice a change in your child´s body, visit your GP. Symptoms can include:

  • A lump or swelling
  • Looking pale
  • Feeling tired a lot
  • Pain
  • Night sweats or temperatures
  • Unexplained bruising
  • Headaches
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Changes in eyesight
  • Feeling generally unwell for no reason
  • Limping

Remember these symptoms are similar to many other conditions that are not cancer. Talk to your doctor if you are concerned.


Testing for cancer when you have no symptoms is called screening. There is no children´s cancer screening programme in Ireland or anywhere in the world at present. If you are concerned about cancer in your child, talk to your doctor.


First, visit your GP if you are worried about any symptoms. If your doctor has concerns about your child, he or she will refer them to a hospital. There your child will see a specialist who may arrange more tests. Your child may need some of the following tests:

  • Biopsy
  • Blood tests
  • Bone Marrow test
  • Lumbar Puncture test
  • X–rays test
  • Ultrasound test

Biopsy: Here a sample of tissue is removed and examined under a microscope in the lab. A biopsy helps your doctor to diagnose the disease.

Blood test: Blood tests can check the number of blood cells and if organs like the kidney and liver are working properly.

Bone Marrow test: A bone marrow biopsy examines the inside of the bone marrow. This is where all the different types of blood cells are made.

Lumbar puncture: A lumbar puncture removes a sample of fluid from around the spinal cord.

X–rays: X-rays allow your doctor to look inside the body and check for any abnormal changes.

Ultrasound scan: An ultrasound scan uses sound waves to build up a picture of the tissues inside your body. It is like the scan used for pregnant women.

Other tests

  • CT scan
  • PET scan
  • MRI scan
  • Bone scan

These scans can help to stage the cancer. This means finding out the size of the cancer and if it has spread anywhere else. This can help your doctor to decide on the right treatment for you.Learn more about the above tests

Call our Cancer Nurseline

Freephone 1800 200 700 to talk to a specialist cancer nurse
It's open Monday-Thursday from 9am to 6pm and Friday from 9am to 5pm

Date Last Reviewed: 
Wednesday, August 26, 2015
Date Last Revised: 
Wednesday, August 26, 2015