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Health Information For Parents
Leukemia is a type of blood cancer that affects the body’s white blood cells (WBCs).
White blood cells help fight infection and protect the body against disease. But in leukemia, some of the white blood cells turn cancerous and don’t work as they should. As more cancerous cells form in the blood and bone marrow (spongy tissue inside the bones), there’s less room for healthy cells.
The different types of leukemia can be either
acute (fast growing) or
chronic (slow growing).
Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) happens when the body makes too many lymphoblasts (a type of white blood cell). It’s the most common type of childhood cancer. ALL is also called acute lymphocytic leukemia and acute lymphoid leukemia.
ALL can affect different types of lymphocytes (B-cells or T-cells). Doctors divide acute lymphoblastic leukemia into subtypes based on the type of lymphocytes involved. Most kids with ALL have a B-cell subtype.
Acute lymphoblastic leukemia develops and gets worse quickly. So prompt diagnosis is very important. Thanks to advances in therapy and clinical trials, the outlook for kids with ALL is promising. With treatment, most are cured.
The cause of acute lymphoblastic leukemia is not known. But some risk factors might increase a child’s chances of developing it.
Acute lymphoblastic leukemia can happen in people of all ages, but is most common in kids ages 2 to 5.
Risk factors for kids include:
All types of leukemia generally have the same symptoms. These include:
Doctors use special tests when they suspect leukemia. These include:
Doctors usually treat children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia with chemotherapy. These special drugs kill cancer cells. Which drugs a child gets and in what combination depends on the subtype of ALL and how aggressive the disease is. How the cancer responds to the initial treatment is also important in choosing the type of chemo.
Doctors can give chemo:
The treatment goal is remission, which is when tests don’t find any cancer cells in the body. Then, maintenance chemotherapy is used to keep the child in remission and prevent the cancer from coming back. The child will get maintenance chemo for 2 to 3 years.
Kids who have an aggressive type of acute lymphoblastic leukemia might need a stem cell transplant. Also called a bone marrow transplant, this involves:
Clinical trials are research studies that offer promising new treatments not yet available to the public. Doctors will decide if a child is a good candidate for a clinical trial.
In most cases, no one can control the things that trigger acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Studies are looking into the possibility that some environmental things may put a child at risk for ALL.
Prenatal radiation exposure, such as X-rays, may trigger ALL in an unborn baby. Pregnant women and those who think they could be pregnant should tell their doctors before having tests or medical procedures that involve radiation.
Learning that a child has cancer is upsetting, and cancer treatment can be stressful for any family.
But remember, you’re not alone. To find support, talk to your doctor or a hospital social worker. Many resources are available to help you get through this difficult time.
From treatments and prevention to coping with the emotional aspects of cancer, the Cancer Center provides comprehensive information that parents need.
Leukemia refers to cancers of the white blood cells. With the proper treatment, the outlook for kids with leukemia is quite good.
Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) happens when the body makes too many immature white blood cells. Among kids with leukemia, 20% have this type. With treatment, most recover.
While this type of blood cancer is more common in adults, it affects children, too. Thanks to advances in therapy, most kids with CML can be cured.
Learn about this rare type of cancer, which usually affects kids under 4 years old.
Stem cells can develop into cells with different skills, so they’re useful in treating diseases like cancer.
Visit our Cancer Center for teens to get information and advice on treating and coping with cancer.
Cancer is a serious illness that needs special treatment. Find out more about how kids can cope with cancer.
Chemotherapy is a big word for treatment with medicines used to help people who have cancer. This medicine kills the cancer cells that are making the person sick.
Certain cancers, or cancer treatment, can weaken the immune system, requiring a child to stay home to avoid exposure to germs. Here are ways to help your child make the best of it.
Stem cells help rebuild a weakened immune system. Stem cell transplants are effective treatments for a wide range of diseases, including cancer.
A bone marrow aspiration and biopsy are performed to examine bone marrow, the spongy liquid part of the bone where blood cells are made.
Different kinds of childhood cancer have different signs, symptoms, treatments, and outcomes. But today, most kids with cancer get better.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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After careful preparation, Connecticut Children’s is excited to welcome your child back for many surgeries, procedures and in-person appointments.
As you resume this important face-to-face care, you can count on us to keep your child safe and sound every step of the way. Learn about our enhanced safety program, Safe and Sound.
Call your child’s specialty clinic today to schedule a surgery, procedure or appointment, or to schedule a Video Visit.
*Please note our current visitor restrictions.
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