Leukemia is a serious condition that can be fatal to our children when left untreated. This condition is among many other types of cancers and this specifically targets the white blood cells particularly the child’s leukocytes. The bone marrow of a child with leukemia is automated to produce tremendous numbers of white blood cells that take on an abnormal function.
The usual function of your body’s WBCs is to ward off infection and to fight against harmful diseases. Once a child suffers from leukemia, the body’s normal WBC function will then be compromised putting your child’s immunity at stake. The progression of this cancer may affect the functions of the varying normal cells such as platelets and red blood cells found in the child’s body resulting to anemia (RBCs below normal) and problems with blood clotting resulting to bleeding as a consequence for a platelet count that is below normal).
This form of cancer suffered most commonly by children comes in three different types. There first type is the ALL which stands for Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia; another is AML which means Acute Myelogenous Leukemia and lastly CML which stands for Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia.
ALL is responsible for about 80% of leukemia in children. This type of leukemia is otherwise known as lymphoid or lymphoblastic leukemia. In this type of leukemia, the lymphocytes are the cells most greatly affected. The child’s bone marrow continuously produce defective lymphocytes that do not completely mature. As the bone marrow’s production of cells increase at a speedy rate and as a result, these immature lymphocytes outnumber the many other normal blood cells of the body. And because they do not finish their complete course of maturation, their functions are immensely compromised. AML on the other hand is otherwise known as myelocytic, granuocytic, myeloid or myeloblastic leukemia. This type of leukemia is covers to about 20% of all leukemias experiences of children. With a child having AML, the granulocytes do not complete its maturation and the amounts being produced by the bone marrow goes beyond that of normal production. The function of these cells is to fight against infection. However, with AML, this can no longer be possible for the cells that are being produced are immature and are incapable to withstand infection. Those children with pre-existing abnormalities such as Bloom Syndrome, Down Syndrome and Kostmann Syndrome have a greater risk for acquiring AML. CML on the other hand, has a slower development compared to all the other types and there are only very rare reports of CML. The reason why this type of condition occurs is due mainly to the rearrangement of the normal chromosome resulting in a deranged pattern leading to an uncontrolled growth of the cells and a change in the normal genetic material.
Some of the symptoms associated with leukemia in children particularly ALL include bone pain, fatigue, bruising, visual changes, paleness, recurrent fever of unknown cause, red spots appearing on the skin and thrombocytopenia. For children suffering from AML the symptoms include headache, dizziness, bone pain, joint pain, anemia, SOB, frequent infections, fever, chest pain, pallor, unexplained weight loss, visual changes and an enlarged spleen. CML targets the adults more than it affects children. The signs of CML include SOB, fever, night sweats, bone pain, enlarged spleen, infection is common, easy bruising, easy bleeding, pallor, weight loss and an abnormal increase of WBCs in the patient’s blood.
Several diagnostic procedures are executed to aid physicians in coming up with a diagnosis. Included in these procedures are blood tests, cultures, spinal tap, bone marrow biopsy, bone scan, spinal tap, CT scan, MRI, Ultrasound or Echocardiogram. The order depends on your health care provider. Despite this being a serious condition, leukemia has a cure and a patient will undergo treatment depending on what you have agreed upon with the physician. Several possible treatments for leukemia are chemotherapy, radiation therapy, biological therapy and the very common mode of treatment, bone marrow transplant.
As soon as you suspect your child to be having frequent infections and manifesting the signs and symptoms previously discussed then the best action is to seek urgent medical attention to immediately combat leukemia.