Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia
Symptoms of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia
ALL can cause a variety of symptoms. Some of these can be vague and not specific just to leukemia. They include:
- Loss of appetite or weight
- Night sweats
Many symptoms of acute lymphoblastic leukemia are the result of a shortage of normal blood cells. That's because leukemia cells crowd out these normal cells in the bone marrow.
A shortage of red blood cells may cause symptoms of anemia, including:
- Fatigue or weakness
- Feeling cold
- Shortness of breath
A shortage of normal white blood cells may result in:
- Recurring infections
A shortage of blood platelets may cause symptoms such as:
- Lots of bruising for no obvious reason
- Frequent or severe nosebleeds, bleeding gums, or other unusual bleeding such as from minor cuts
Depending upon where leukemia cells are present, other symptoms may include:
- A full or swollen belly from leukemia cells in the liver or spleen
- Enlarged lymph nodes such as in the neck or groin, under arms, or above the collarbone
- Bone or joint pain
- Headache, trouble with balance, vomiting, seizures, or blurred vision if the cancer has spread to the brain
Trouble breathing if spread has occurred in the chest area
Treatment for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia
ALL is really a group of related diseases, or subtypes. Therefore, your treatment options depend upon your subtype and other factors. You may have more than one type of treatment. These include:
Chemotherapy, the use of anticancer drugs in combination, generally over a couple of years. Agents used for ALL include:
Targeted therapy, drugs that target specific parts of cancer cells and tend to have fewer or less severe side effects than chemotherapy. Examples include imatinib (Gleevec), dasatinib (Sprycel), ponatinib (Iclusig), and nilotinib (Tasigna), which attack cells with the Philadelphia chromosome.
Radiation therapy, the use of high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells. This is not used often for ALL but may be used to treat leukemia in the brain or bone, for example, or before a stem cell transplant.
A bone marrow transplant, which involves use of high doses of chemotherapy and possibly radiation followed by a transplant of bone-forming stem cells. Stem cells usually come from a donor. Or, less likely, they come from your own bone marrow or peripheral blood. If you cannot tolerate high doses of chemotherapy and radiation, lower doses may be used with a "mini-transplant."