Child Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia – Cause, Symptoms, and Treatment
Leukemia is one of the kinds of cancers that develop in the blood infecting the white blood cells. WBCs (the white blood cells) helps a body fight against infections and prevent disease. But, if infected with leukemia, these cells turn cancerous and don't function appropriately as they should. When these infected cells start forming in the blood and bone marrow, the healthy cells will have less room to form and function.
Understanding what Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL) is
The term "acute" here indicates that the disease leukemia is progressing rapidly into a body and rather than creating more mature cells it is developing the immature ones. Secondly, "lymphocytic" refers to the ALL affected white blood cells which are also known as lymphocytes.
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Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL) can also be called acute lymphoid leukemia and it occurs when the body starts developing too many white blood cells. ALL can be diagnosed in any human body; whether adult or child. Nevertheless, it is more known as a common type of childhood cancer.
Acute lymphocytic leukemia affects various types of lymphocytes- that are B-cells or T-cells. An expert will divide ALL into Subtypes depending on the type of lymphocytes involved. However, a B-cell subtype of ALL is the most commonly found in kids.
Acute lymphocytic leukemia spreads very quickly. So the timely diagnosis is vital. Thanks to the advanced therapies and clinical trials, most ALL diseases are cured.
The exact causes of ALL are not known but some factors are responsible for the increase in a child's chance of developing leukemia. Acute lymphoblastic leukemia can happen at any age but the most common is the kid-ages i.e. between 2 and 5. The common risk factors for ALL include-
- Having a twin and/or sibling diagnosed with ALL at an early age i.e. before 6 years.
- A genetic birth problem like down or Li-Fraumeni syndrome.
- Regular medication after a sort of surgical procedure like organ transplant to keep the immune system stable.
- Exposure to X-Rays before birth
- Chemotherapy or radiation treatment underwent earlier to cure some other type of cancer.
Usually, symptoms of all types of leukemia are the same. They include-
- The ongoing feeling of being tired, weak, and pale.
- Sudden swelling in multiple lymph nodes
- Regular occurrence of infections like tonsillitis or bronchitis.
- Severe fever
- Restless nights
- Easy bruising or small red spots on the skin that usually appears by easy bleeding.
- Constant pain in bone and joints
- Severe belly pain since the cancerous blood cells develop in the body parts like the liver, spleen, and kidneys.
Special tests are carried out when a medical practitioner suspects leukemia in a patient. The tests include-
- Blood Tests to check blood count, function panels of kidney and liver, and blood chemistries. The test report will help the cancer specialist identify how normal your blood cells are and how well your organs are working.
- Imaging studies performed by CT-scan, MRI, X-ray, or Ultrasound. These tests are required to check if there is a mass of leukemia cells present in the chest. If yes it could impact breathing and blood circulation.
- Bone marrow test removing a little amount of bone marrow with the help of a needle from the large bone. With the help of a bone marrow sample, the lab technician will do a flow cytometry test that will help your doctor figure out the type of blood cancer you are suffering from. Identifying the types is important since the treatment differs on the bases of the types of cancer. Secondly, the bone marrow sample will also be used for genetic tests. This test will help doctors check the changes formed in the genes. These changes can help doctors uncover the best treatment.
- Lumbar puncture also noted as a spinal tap where the doctor will remove a small amount of cerebrospinal fluid with the help of a hollow needle. Cerebrospinal fluid surrounds the brain and the spinal cord to keep them from injuries. This test help doctors spot the infection developed in the central nervous system together with the brain and spine.
An expert will treat a leukemic child with Chemotherapy. It is a special procedure that kills cancer cells. The combination of medication to be given to the patient depends on the subtype of leukemia and how acute it is. The way the initial blood cancer treatment responds helps in determining the type of chemo to be given to the leukemic child. Chemo can be given – through some vein, by injecting the drug into a muscle, in the form of pills to be given through mouth, or the spinal tap.
The treatment plan will be lessened ones the tests are positive again and don't further find any cancer cells. But indeed maintenance chemotherapy is important to keep a child in remission and keep cancer from returning. Maintenance chemo to a child is given as recommended by the expert.
A child diagnosed with an aggressive type of leukemia may require a stem cell transplant. This treatment is also titled as a bone marrow transplant. The treatment involves-
- Killing cancer cells, immune system cells, and normal bone marrow through high-dose chemotherapy or radiation
- Recover healthy donor stem cells
- A rebuilt healthy supply of blood and immune system with new stem cells
No one can control the things that trigger ALL. Experts are trying to investigate the possibilities of some environmental things that can put kids at risk for leukemia. Prenatal radiation exposure like X-rays is mostly said to trigger ALL in a fetus or unborn child. Moreover, pregnant moms and women who think they could be pregnant should ensure with their doctors that no medical procedure they are going through involves radiation.
Learning that your kid is having cancer is painful. Indeed, the treatment will be stressful for the entire family. To ease things, as much as you can, find out the best support. Talk to a specialized doctor or a cancer specialty hospital or research center. There are various resources available to get you through a tough time.
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