Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Cancer Health Center

Font Size

Childhood Leukemia

Childhood leukemia, the most common type of cancer in children and teens, is a cancer of the white blood cells. Abnormal white blood cells form in the bone marrow. They quickly travel through the bloodstream and crowd out healthy cells. This increases the body's chances of infection and other problems.

As tough as it is for a child to have cancer, it's good to know that most children and teens with childhood leukemia can be successfully treated.

Recommended Related to Cancer

Treatment of Undifferentiated Embryonal Sarcoma of the Liver

Treatment Options Undifferentiated embryonal sarcoma of the liver is so rare that only small series have been published regarding treatment. However, use of aggressive chemotherapy regimens seems to have improved the overall survival (OS). The generally accepted approach is to resect the primary tumor mass in the liver when possible. Neoadjuvant chemotherapy can be effective in decreasing an unresectable primary tumor mass, resulting in resectability.[1,2,3,4] The OS of these children appears...

Read the Treatment of Undifferentiated Embryonal Sarcoma of the Liver article > >

Risk Factors for Childhood Leukemia

Doctors don't know exactly what causes most cases of childhood leukemia. But certain factors may increase the chances of getting it. Keep in mind, though, that having a risk factor does not necessarily mean a child will get leukemia. In fact, most children with leukemia don't have any known risk factors.

The risk for childhood leukemia increases if your child has:

  • An inherited disorder such as Li-Fraumeni syndrome, Down syndrome, or Klinefelter syndrome
  • An inherited immune system problem such as ataxia telangiectasia
  • A brother or sister with leukemia, especially an identical twin
  • A history of being exposed to high levels of radiation, chemotherapy, or chemicals such as benzene (a solvent)
  • A history of immune system suppression, such as for an organ transplant

Although the risk is small, doctors advise that children with known risk factors have regular checkups to spot any problems early.

Types of Childhood Leukemia

Almost all cases of childhood leukemia are acute, which means they develop rapidly. A tiny number are chronic and develop slowly.

Types of childhood leukemia include:

  • Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), also called acute lymphocytic leukemia. ALL accounts for three out of every four cases of childhood leukemia.
  • Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). AML is the next most common type of childhood leukemia.
  • Hybrid or mixed lineage leukemia. This is a rare leukemia with features of both ALL and AML.
  • Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML). CML is rare in children.
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). CLL is very rare in children.
  • Juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia (JMML). This is a rare type that is neither chronic nor acute and occurs most often in children under age 4.

 

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

 

WebMD Medical Reference

Today on WebMD

Building a Support System
Blog
cancer fighting foods
SLIDESHOW
 
precancerous lesions slideshow
SLIDESHOW
quit smoking tips
SLIDESHOW
 
Jennifer Goodman Linn self-portrait
Blog
what is your cancer risk
HEALTH CHECK
 
colorectal cancer treatment advances
Video
breast cancer overview slideshow
SLIDESHOW
 
prostate cancer overview
SLIDESHOW
lung cancer overview slideshow
SLIDESHOW
 
ovarian cancer overview slideshow
SLIDESHOW
Actor Michael Douglas
Article