Leukemia is the most common of all cancers in children, with most cases occurring in children under 10 years. Leukemia is a cancer in which the bone marrow produces too many white blood cells. These cells are often abnormal. White blood cells are the body’s infection fighters, so kids with leukemia might get more infections than normal. Leukemia is life-threatening, but treatable.
What causes leukemia?
Like many cancers, doctors aren’t really sure why kids get leukemia, but most believe it is a combination of genetic factors and environmental ones.
Is leukemia serious?
Yes. Leukemia is life-threatening. Most kids with acute leukemia (leukemia that comes on suddenly) can be cured, and kids with chronic leukemia (develops more slowly) can manage their cancer for a long time.
Can I prevent leukemia?
There’s no way to completely prevent leukemia, but ensuring your child is not exposed to environmental toxins might help.
How do I know if my child has leukemia?
Acute leukemia is often diagnosed faster than chronic leukemia. Sometimes, kids with chronic leukemia don’t have any symptoms for a long time. Symptoms of both acute and chronic leukemia include:
- Regular infections with high temperatures
- Bleeding easily, and bleeding from the gums and nose
- Bruising easily with no obvious cause
- Pain in the bones and joints
- Weight loss
- Swollen lymph glands
- Abdominal discomfort
How do I treat leukemia?
Your doctor will discuss the best treatment for your child. Most treatment plans include chemotherapy – cancer killing drugs. Other treatments may include radiotherapy, immunotherapy, steroids, and stem cell transplant. Leukemia treatments are difficult and you may need outside support to help you and your child cope.
Should I call the doctor?
Call the doctor if your child displays the symptoms of leukemia. He can perform tests that can diagnose the disease. Successful treatment depends, in part, on catching the disease as early as possible.
What you need to know about leukemia
- Leukemia is a blood cancer.
- Kids with leukemia produce a lot of abnormal white cells.
- The most common treatment for leukemia is chemotherapy.
Find more relevant articles and information about cancers:
- Read more about Hodgkins disease?
- Find out more about Lymphona
- Find out more about Sarcoma
Written by Rebecca Stigall for Kidspot, New Zealand's parenting resource for family health. Sources include Better Health Channel, NSW Health and Health Insite.
Last revised: Wednesday, 20 January 2010
This article contains general information only and is not intended to replace advice from a qualified health professional.