What is Childhood Leukemia?

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
Apr 12, 2012

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What is Childhood Leukemia

The blood-forming cells are affected by Leukaemia in their early stages. In most cases of leukaemia, white blood cells of a person are affected, but not in all as in some cases, this condition also affects other type of blood cells. If you are wondering as to what is childhood leukaemia, it should be noted that symptoms of leukaemia in children are the same as those of the disease in adults but at times they can be confusing. Wilms’ Tumour or neuroblastoma symptoms in children can be similar to those of leukaemia.

Blood cells are produced in the bone marrow. The white blood cells help to fight your body infection. Leukaemia is the condition in which the normal production of white blood cells becomes difficult. Abnormally high level of white blood cells are produced which gather around the healthy blood cells, due to which they cannot function normally in the body.  There are two types of leukaemia, acute and chronic. Children usually get the acute type.

A child is more at risk of leukaemia if:

  • His brother or sister has the same disease.
  • He has certain genetic disorders, and
  • He has undergone chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

Types of acute leukaemia in children


  • Acute lymphocytic leukaemia – About three-fourth of all cases of childhood leukaemia is accounted by acute lymphocytic leukaemia. It originates in the lymphoid cell of the bone marrow.
  • Acute myelogenous leukaemia – Most of the cases of a child with leukaemia fall under the category of this type. This type of leukaemia begins in the cells that form white blood cells, red blood cells or platelets.
  • Hybrid or mixed lineage leukaemia – This type of leukaemia is very rare and it shows the features of both the abovementioned leukaemia. The treatment of this type is usually the same as what is given for acute lymphocytic leukaemia.

Chronic leukemia in children

There are two types of chronic leukaemia. These are rare in children. They are called Chronic Myeloid (Myelogenous) Leukaemia and Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia. Treatment is often successful for curing childhood leukemia. It includes chemotherapy, drug therapy and radiation therapy. Bone marrow transplantation and blood stem transplantation can help in the treatment of leukaemia.

There is another type of leukaemia in children called the Juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia (JMML). It occurs mostly in children under the age of 4 and its symptoms are pale skin, cough, fever, trouble breathing (due to increased number of white blood cells in the lungs), swollen lymph nodes and spleen.


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