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Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL)

Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) is the most common form of childhood cancer. Every year, approximately 110 children in the Netherlands are diagnosed with acute lymphatic leukemia. ALL occurs in children of all ages, but cases peak at the age of three and four. ALL involves uninhibited division and growth of lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell, leaving no room for the production of healthy blood cells.

The brochure entitled Acute lymphocytic leukemia contains comprehensive information about this disease. The most important information is provided below.

Causes

The DNA in leukemia cells is often found to be damaged. This damage occurs only in the leukemia cells and not in the healthy body cells. Unfortunately, we still do not know why that is and so for the most part we do not know why a child develops leukemia. Occasionally, the disease is related to a congenital defect or disease, such as Down's syndrome.

Symptoms

Children with leukemia can suffer recurring infections and fever; anemia; nosebleeds; bruising; small, pointed, purple-red spots; wounds that keep bleeding; and bone pain. The combination of these symptoms is the main indication of leukemia. The children might also have swollen lymph nodes and an enlarged liver, spleen or testicle.

How is acute lymphocytic leukemia diagnosed?

Sometimes blood tests clearly indicate leukemia, but usually we need to extract bone marrow and collect cerebrospinal fluid. These procedures are performed under sedation.


Treatment

Children with ALL are treated according to a national protocol. The exact treatment depends on the type of leukemia, the type of genetic disorder, the number of leukemia cells in the blood and the age of your child. Treatment takes approximately two years and the type of treatment is chemotherapy. The initial treatment is the most intensive.
The main side effect is a reduced immune system, making your child susceptible to infections. To prevent as many infections as possible, your child is given antibiotics and anti-fungal medication that they must take throughout treatment.
Infections can develop very quickly in children with a reduced immune system. So it is very important that you always contact the treatment team immediately if your child has a fever. This is equally important if you think that something is wrong with your child (without a fever).

Always contact the hospital immediately if your child has a fever or if you have any concerns.


Chance of recovery

Children with ALL stand a very good chance of recovery, but because every situation and every child is unique, it is difficult to make predictions. The damages to the DNA as mentioned previously differ per child. The chance of recovery can be deduced from the type of genetic disorder in the leukemia cells and how sensitive the leukemia is to treatment. Don't be influenced too much by statistics. Every child and every situation is unique.


Questions?

Children with acute lymphocytic leukemia are treated in the hematology-oncology department.

Telephone 088-9727272