Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia
Also known as Acute lymphocytic leukemia(ALL), acute lymphoblastic leukemia is another form of blood cancer. Like myeloid leukemia, it is malignant too.
Acute lymphoblastic leukemia is the most common cancer during childhood; usually occurring in children between the age of 2-5.
Onset of symptoms of Acute lymphoblastic leukemia is very gradual and later shoots up within a short time due to an increase in the number of immature white blood cells(blast cells) in the blood.
An examination of the blood and bone marrow of people with Acute lymphoblastic leukemia would show large numbers of immature white cells which transform later into leukemic cells.
Signs and symptoms which have been observed in people with ALL include:
- Enlarged lymph nodes, liver and spleen
- High grade fever
- Pain in the joints and bones
- Easy skin-bruising
- Increased susceptibility to infections in a short period of time etc.
Like other forms of leukemias, the exact cause of Acute lymphoblastic leukemia is not known, but it has been observed that children with Down syndrome have likelihood to come down with this form of leukemia.
Other contributing factors are that children who do not have exposure to germs in early childhood have higher chances of developing Acute lymphoblastic leukemia when compared to children who were exposed to germs at playgrounds in early childhood.
Diagnosis of Acute lymphoblastic leukemia is very similar to that of Acute myelogenous leukemia.
Treatment options available are chemotherapy, radiotherapy and bone marrow /stem cell treatment.
Chemotherapy is administered orally or intravenously to kill leukemic cells. In addition, when the brain or testes (in male children) is involved, an intrathecal injection is given for the drug to reach these areas.
To avoid reoccurrence of the cancer, long-term treatment and monitoring is needed. The patient’s blood picture has to be regularly monitored because chemotherapy reduces the number of healthy white blood cells, making the patient vulnerable to a whole lot of infections.
Acute lymphoblastic leukemia is curable especially in children with a survival rate of more than 80 percent.