Leukemia is a blood cancer. Most leukemia begins with cells that would usually become white blood cells. Normally, your body makes the correct amount of white blood cells needed to fight infections and carry out other important body functions.
Children with leukemia produce too many white blood cells, and these cells don’t function properly. The cells grow too quickly, crowding out red blood cells and platelets.
Most children with leukemia have an acute form of it. Acute leukemia progresses very quickly in the body and needs immediate treatment. The two types of leukemia most common in children are:
Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL). ALL is the most common type of childhood leukemia and accounts for about 75 percent of all cases. ALL starts in immature white blood cells, called lymphoblasts. These cells create antibodies to fight things like bacteria and viruses in your body.
Acute myeloid leukemia (AML). AML is the second most common type of childhood leukemia. AML begins in the bone marrow and then spreads through the blood. AML prevents immature blood cells found in bone marrow (called myeloblasts or Mono blasts) from maturing into white blood cells that help fight infection and disease.
While ALL and AML account for almost all cases of childhood leukemia, children can sometimes develop other leukemia types. Rare types of leukemia in children include:
Mixed lineage leukemia (MPAL). MPAL is a type of leukemia that has features of both AML and ALL. When it occurs in children, doctors generally follow the same treatment plan as ALL.
Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). Chronic leukemia is extremely rare in children. CML is a type of chronic leukemia that begins in the bone marrow. It develops and spreads slowly.
Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Just like CML, CLL spreads very slowly and is rarely found in children. CLL also begins in the bone marrow.
Juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia (JMML). JMML is a rare type of leukemia that most often occurs in very young children. In JMML leukemia grows faster than CML but slower than AML.
Symptoms of Leukemia in children includes: Fatigue, fever, weakness, loss of appetite, weight loss, headaches, pale skin, troubling breathing, cough, vomiting, bleeding gum, swollen stomach, lightheadness.
Causes of Leukemia in children:
The exact causes of leukemia in children are not known, but it is likely that several factors are involved. Factors that may put some children at higher risk of genetic damage that can lead to leukemia include:
infections: delayed exposure to common childhood infections or an abnormal response by the child’s immune system to these infections
radiation: exposure to large doses of ionizing radiation (energy from x-rays and radioactive materials) before birth or in the early years
chemicals: exposure to high levels of certain chemicals, such as benzene
congenital disorders: like Down syndrome and Fanconi anemia
Can Leukemia be prevented?
Some research suggests reducing exposure to things that might cause an increased risk of leukemia. This might include:
avoiding unnecessary X-rays or CT scans
keeping children away from pesticides and other strong chemicals
both parents quitting smoking
trying to limit or reduce exposure to polluted air
Treatment of children with acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL)
Children with ALL receive chemotherapy treatment in three phases:
Induction. This is the first phase of chemotherapy. Children will receive chemotherapy and take medicines aimed at achieving remission and might have multiple hospital stays. This phase usually lasts 1 to 3 months.
Consolidation. Once their leukemia is in remission, children will start the consolidation phase. Children will receive several months of chemotherapy aimed at keeping ALL in remission during this phase. Some children might also receive a stem cell transplant during this phase.
Maintenance. Children who remain in remission can enter the maintenance phase. During this phase, children can take prescription medicine to help keep their cancer in remission. The length of this phase will depend on the individual child and their progress.
Treatment of children with acute myeloid leukemia (AML)
Children with AML needed to be treated through an inpatient program at a hospital or cancer treatment center. They’ll receive chemotherapy in two phases:
Induction. Children will receive intensive chemotherapy during the induction phase. The induction phase lasts until remission is achieved.
Consolidation. Ducting consultation chemotherapy is used to destroy any remaining cancer cells. Some children might also have a stem cell transplant during this phase.
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