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Leukemia in children

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Leukemia is a type of cancer that primarily affects the bone marrow and blood. It’s one of the most common childhood cancers. Leukemia in children can be a challenging diagnosis, but advances in medical treatments have significantly improved survival rates over the years. There are two main types of leukemia that can occur in children:

  • Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL):
    • Prevalence: ALL is the most common type of leukemia in children, accounting for approximately 75-80% of all pediatric leukemia cases.
    • Age Group: It is most commonly diagnosed in children between the ages of 2 and 5, but it can occur at any age.
    • Subtypes: ALL has several subtypes based on the type of white blood cell affected (B-cell or T-cell ALL), and specific genetic or molecular abnormalities.
    • Symptoms: Children with ALL may experience symptoms such as fatigue, pale skin, fever, unexplained bruising or bleeding, bone and joint pain, and enlarged lymph nodes.
  • Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML):
    • Prevalence: AML is less common in children compared to ALL, making up about 20% of pediatric leukemia cases.
    • Age Group: AML is more frequently diagnosed in older children, including teenagers.
    • Subtypes: AML has various subtypes based on the type of myeloid cells affected and genetic characteristics.
    • Symptoms: Symptoms of AML in children can include fatigue, infections, bleeding problems, fever, and bone pain.

Key points about leukemia in children:

  • Diagnosis: Diagnosis typically involves blood tests, bone marrow aspiration and biopsy, and genetic testing to determine the subtype of leukemia.
  • Treatment: Treatment for pediatric leukemia usually consists of chemotherapy, which may be administered in phases (induction, consolidation, and maintenance). In some cases, bone marrow or stem cell transplantation may be necessary.
  • Prognosis: The outlook for children with leukemia has significantly improved in recent decades. The overall survival rate for pediatric ALL is high, with cure rates exceeding 90% in many cases. AML has a slightly lower overall survival rate, but it is still relatively favorable.
  • Long-term Follow-up: After completing treatment, children with leukemia typically undergo long-term follow-up care to monitor for any potential late effects or complications of treatment.
  • Supportive Care: Treatment for leukemia in children often requires hospital stays and supportive care, such as blood transfusions, to manage side effects.
  • Psychosocial Support: Psychosocial support for both the child and their family is an essential part of leukemia care. Many hospitals have support services and pediatric oncology teams to assist families throughout the treatment process.

Pediatric oncologists and a multidisciplinary team of healthcare professionals work together to provide comprehensive care for children with leukemia. Early diagnosis and timely treatment are crucial for achieving the best possible outcomes and improving the quality of life for children affected by this disease.

The Pediatric.me content is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice or as a substitute for medical advice of a physician