Leukemia is a condition where a gene mutation begins to propagate leukemic cells at the expense of normal healthy blood cells. It’s a disease that afflicts tens of thousands of people every year and damages the entire body as diseased blood cells travel from the bone marrow throughout the circulatory system. These leukemic white blood cells don’t properly mature and crowd out healthy red blood cells. The body is unable to regulate the production of blood cells as the white blood cells continue to grow rapidly and out of proportion to the red blood cells in the child’s body. A diagnosis of leukemia is made by taking a complete blood count and noting the differential between red blood cells, white blood cells, hemoglobin and platelets.
- Children who have leukemia have relatively fewer healthy red blood cells which makes it harder to carry oxygen where it’s needed in the body. This can lead to anemia, a condition where children bruise and bleed relatively easily and may exhibit petechiae (red spots underneath the skin that are signs of internal bleeding).
- Because children with leukemia have a higher than normal counts of white blood cells, they may experience recurring infections as these immature blood cells are unable to fight bacterial infections.
- Leukemia causes cells to collect in the chest and abdomen, and can cause both labored breathing as well as stomach pains.
- Leukemia can lead to swollen lymph nodes which may manifest itself as lumps in the net, growing or underarm area.
- Other symptoms include a general feeling of tiredness as well as a pale skin tone.
Types of Leukemia
Leukemia Treatment for Advanced Cases
When chemotherapy or radiation treatment for leukemia isn’t having the desired effect, it’s time to take the next step in your child’s treatment plan. It’s actually more common for children compared to adults to enroll in a phase III clinical trial for treatment of their cancer. Parents can get more information on clinical trials for leukemia at the following address:
American Childhood Cancer Organization Clinical Trials
Further information on childhood Leukemia: