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Childhood Leukemia

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Symptoms of Childhood Leukemia

Symptoms of leukemia often prompt a visit to the doctor. This is a good thing because it means the disease may be found earlier than it otherwise would. Early diagnosis can lead to more successful treatment.

Many signs and symptoms of childhood leukemia occur when leukemia cells crowd out normal cells.

Common symptoms include:

  • Fatigue or pale skin
  • Infections and fever
  • Easy bleeding or bruising
  • Extreme fatigue or weakness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing 

Other symptoms may include:

  • Bone or joint pain
  • Swelling in the abdomen, face, arms, underarms, sides of neck, or groin
  • Swelling above the collarbone
  • Loss of appetite or weight loss
  • Headaches, seizures, balance problems, or abnormal vision
  • Vomiting
  • Rashes
  • Gum problems

 

Diagnosing Childhood Leukemia

To diagnose childhood leukemia, the doctor will take a thorough medical history and perform a physical exam. Tests are used to diagnose childhood leukemia as well as classify its type.

Initial tests may include:

  • Blood tests to measure the number of blood cells and see how they appear.
  • Bone marrow aspiration and biopsy, usually taken from the pelvic bone, to confirm a diagnosis of leukemia.
  • Lumbar puncture, or spinal tap, to check for spread of leukemia cells in the fluid that bathes the brain and spinal cord.

A pathologist examines cells from the blood tests under a microscope. This specialist also checks bone marrow samples for the number of blood-forming cells and fat cells.

Other tests may be done to help determine which type of leukemia your child may have. These tests also help the doctors know how likely the leukemia is to respond to treatment.

Certain tests may be repeated later to see how your child responds to treatment.

Treatments for Childhood Leukemia

Have a "heart-to-heart" talk with your child's doctor and other members of the cancer care team about the best options for your child. Treatment depends mainly upon the type of leukemia as well as other factors.

The good news is the survival rates for most types of childhood leukemia have increased over time. And treatment at special centers for children and teens provides the advantages of specialized care. In addition, childhood cancers tend to respond to treatment better than adult cancers do, and children's bodies often tolerate treatment better.

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