Causes and Diagnoses

Causes and Diagnoses of Childhood Cancers

While cancer and blood disorders can occur at any age, children need to be treated differently than adults. Your child’s pediatric oncology specialist is trained in connecting with children and teens in a way that sets the stage for effective examinations, diagnosis and treatments.

There is no one single cause for childhood cancer. Scientists believe that it is the interaction of many factors together that produces cancer. The factors involved may be genetic, environmental or constitutional characteristics of the child.


To make an accurate diagnosis, our specialists will perform a thorough evaluation that includes a health history, physical examination and blood tests. We may perform other tests depending on the location and type of suspected cancer. Additional tests may include:

Other diagnostic tests include:

  • Bone marrow aspiration and/or biopsy: This is a test to diagnose leukemia or abnormalities of the bone marrow. We insert a needle through a hard bone into the bone marrow, and remove a tiny bone marrow specimen with a syringe.
  • Lumbar puncture (LP, spinal tap): We use LP to examine cerebral spinal fluid. A needle inserted between two spinal bones collects a sample of the clear fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord. We examine the fluid under a microscope to look for cancer cells or infection.
  • Bone scan: This X-ray test uses a short-lived radioactive dye injected into the bloodstream to find tumors or other abnormalities in the bones. Bone scan is not painful, but the patient must lie still for extended periods of time.

Your physician may require more tests to determine the stage, or extent, of the cancer.