Leukemia in Children: Types, Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Leukemia in Children Types, Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

About Leukemia

The term leukemia describes cancers of the leukocyte (also called leukocytes or WBCs). When someone has leukemia, large numbers of abnormal white blood cells are produced in the bone marrow. These unusual white blood cells crowd the bone marrow and flood the blood stream, however they can not perform their appropriate function of protecting the body versus disease because they are defective.

As leukemia progresses, the cancer disrupts the body’s production of other types of blood cells, consisting of red blood cells and platelets. This leads to anemia (low numbers of red cells) and bleeding issues, in addition to the increased risk of infection brought on by white cell abnormalities.

As a group, leukemias account for about 30% of all youth cancers and affect more than 3,000 American young people each year. Luckily, the possibilities for a remedy are excellent with leukemia. With treatment, a lot of children with leukemia will be devoid of the disease without it returning.

Leukemia normally involves the white blood cells. Your white blood cells are powerful infection fighters– they normally grow and divide in an organized method, as your body requires them. However in individuals with leukemia, the bone marrow produces irregular leukocyte, which do not operate properly.

Types of Leukemia

In basic, leukemias are categorized into intense (quickly developing) and chronic (slowly establishing) kinds. In children, many leukemias are acute.

Acute childhood leukemias are also divided into acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and intense myeloid leukemia (AML), depending upon whether particular leukocyte called lymphyocytes or myelocytes, which are connected to immune defenses, are included.

The ALL kind of the disease most typically happens in younger children ages 2 to 8, however it can impact any age groups. AML can occur at any age, but it is rather more common before the age of 2 and during the teenage years.

A lot of kids with leukemia have ALL; about 20% have AML. Other types of leukemia, like chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) or juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia (JMML), are much less typical.

Leukemia in Children Types, Causes, Symptoms and Treatment


Although experts have no idea exactly what causes leukemia, it appears that some types of childhood leukemia might be linked to genetic or ecological elements.

Kids have a higher possibility of establishing ALL or AML if they have a twin who was identified with the health problem at a young age. (Nonidentical twins and other brother or sisters of children with leukemia have a higher than typical risk of developing this health problem.) Also, children who have actually acquired specific genetic issues– such as Li-Fraumeni syndrome, Down syndrome, Klinefelter syndrome, neurofibromatosis, ataxia telangectasia, or Fanconi’s anemia– have a greater risk of developing leukemia.

Children who have received prior radiation or chemotherapy for other types of cancer also have a greater risk for leukemia, as do kids who are receiving medical drugs to suppress their immune systems after organ transplants.

In most cases, neither parents nor kids have control over the elements that set off leukemia. A lot of leukemias arise from noninherited mutations (changes) in the genes of growing blood cells. Due to the fact that these errors happen arbitrarily and unexpectedly, there is presently no efficient method to avoid most types of leukemia.

To restrict the risk of prenatal radiation direct exposure as a trigger for leukemia (particularly ALL), women who are pregnant or who think that they may be pregnant need to always inform their doctors prior to going through tests or medical treatments that involve radiation (such as X-rays).


Because their infection-fighting leukocyte are defective, kids with leukemia might have more viral or bacterial infections than typical. They likewise might end up being anemic due to the fact that leukemia impacts the bone marrow’s production of oxygen-carrying red cell. This makes them appear pale, and they may end up being unusually exhausted and short of breath while playing.

Children with leukemia may bruise and bleed very easily, experience frequent nosebleeds, or feel sorry for an uncommonly long time after even a minor cut since leukemia ruins the bone marrow’s capability to produce clot-forming platelets.

Other symptoms of leukemia can include:

  • pain in the bones or joints, sometimes causing a limp
  • swollen lymph nodes (sometimes called swollen glands) in the neck, groin, or somewhere else
  • an abnormally tired feeling
  • bad cravings
  • fevers with no other symptoms
  • abdominal pain (brought on by irregular blood cells building up in organs like the kidneys, liver, or spleen).

Periodically, the spread of leukemia to the brain can cause headaches, seizures, balance problems, or irregular vision. If ALL spreads to the lymph nodes inside the chest, the bigger mass can crowd the trachea (windpipe) and important capillary, causing breathing problems, and interfere with blood flow to and from the heart.

Medical diagnosis

To determine whether a child has leukemia, a doctor will do a physical exam to check for signs of infection, anemia, irregular bleeding, and swollen lymph nodes. The doctor will also feel the child’s abdomen to examine the liver and spleen since these organs can end up being enlarged by some youth cancers.

The doctor likewise will take a case history by inquiring about symptoms, previous health, the household’s health history, medications the child is taking, allergic reactions, and other concerns.

After this exam, the doctor will purchase a CBC (complete blood count) to measure the varieties of white blood cells, red cells, and platelets in the child’s blood. A blood smear will be examined under a microscopic lense to look for particular specific types of irregular blood cells usually seen in patients with leukemia. Blood chemistries also will be checked.

Then, depending upon the results of the physical exam and initial blood tests, the child may require:

  • a bone marrow biopsy and goal, in which marrow samples are gotten rid of (normally from the back of the hip) for screening.
  • a lymph node biopsy, where lymph nodes are eliminated and taken a look at under a microscope to look for irregular cells.
  • a back puncture (back tap), where a sample of spine fluid is removed from the lower back and examined for evidence of irregular cells. This will reveal whether the leukemia has actually spread to the main nerve system (brain and spine).
  • imaging research studies, such as X-rays, ultrasounds, CT scans, or MRIs.

Besides these basic lab tests, cell assessments may be done, consisting of genetic studies to compare particular types of leukemia and particular features of the leukemia cells. Kids will get anesthesia or sedative medications for any painful treatments.

Regular checkups can spot early symptoms of leukemia in the fairly rare cases where this cancer is linked to an inherited hereditary issue, to prior cancer treatment, or to the use of immunosuppressive drugs for organ transplants.

Kids who are diagnosed with leukemia are referred to a pediatric oncologist, a professional in youth cancer, for evaluation, treatment, and close tracking.


Treatment for leukemia typically is performed by a group of experts, including nurses, social employees, psychologists, cosmetic surgeons, and other health care specialists. Certain patient functions (such as age and preliminary leukocyte count) are used to assist physicians choose which kind of treatment will supply the best chance for a cure.

Chemotherapy is the main treatment for youth leukemia, although the doses and drug mixes may vary. Chemo can be offered by mouth, into a vein, or into the back fluid.

Extensive leukemia chemotherapy has certain side effects, consisting of hair loss, queasiness and vomiting, and increased risk for infection or bleeding in the short term, along with other potential health problems later. As a child is treated for leukemia, the cancer treatment team will enjoy carefully for those side effects and treat them as needed.

Other types of treatment include radiation therapy (high-energy rays that eliminate cancer cells), targeted therapy (particular drugs that identify and attack cancer cells without hurting typical cells), and stem cell transplants (the introduction of healthy stem cells into the body).

With the appropriate treatment, the outlook for kids and teenagers who are diagnosed with leukemia is quite great. Most youth leukemias have very high remission rates, with some approximately 90% (remission indicates there is no longer evidence of cancer cells in the body). Total cure rates vary depending on the specific features of the disease. And most of kids can be treated of the disease (significance that they are in long-term remission).

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