Acute lymphocytic leukaemia (ALL), also referred to as acute lymphoid leukaemia is a type of cancer of the blood and bone marrow, the spongy tissue inside bones where blood cells are made. It is the least common type of leukaemia in adults.
Tests and diagnosis for acute lymphocytic leukaemia (ALL)
The cancer is called acute because the disease progresses rapidly and creates immature blood cells, rather than mature ones. If not treated on time, this type of leukaemia would probably turn fatal within a few months. Leukaemia cells have this tendency of spreading to other parts of the body, including the lymph nodes, liver, spleen, central nervous system and testicles.
Signs and symptoms of acute lymphocytic leukaemia (ALL)
Signs and symptoms of acute lymphocytic leukaemia may include:
Tests and diagnosis for acute lymphocytic leukaemia (ALL) include various procedures:
Available treatment for acute lymphocytic leukaemia (ALL)
- Blood tests: A blood test may reveal inadequate white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets. Your blood sample may also show the presence of blast cells, immature cells normally found in the bone marrow but not circulating in the blood.
- Bone marrow test: During bone marrow procedure, a needle is used to remove a sample of bone marrow from the hipbone. The sample is sent to a lab for testing to look for leukaemia cells. Pathologists in the lab will categorize blood cells into specific types based on their size, shape and other features. They also look for certain changes in the cancer cells.
- Imaging tests: Imaging tests such as X-ray, computerized tomography (CT) scan or ultrasound scan may help in determining whether the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
- Spinal fluid test: Also known as a lumbar puncture test, it may be used to collect a sample of spinal fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. The test is performed to see whether cancer cells have spread to the spinal fluid.
Available treatments for acute lymphocytic leukaemia (ALL) include:
- Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy, which uses drugs to kill cancer cells, is normally used as an induction therapy for children and adults with acute lymphocytic leukaemia.
- Targeted drug therapy: Targeted drugs attack specific irregularities present in cancer cells that help them grow. In some cases, a specific irregularity called the Philadelphia chromosome is found in people with acute lymphocytic leukaemia. Targeted drugs are approved only for people with the Philadelphia chromosome-positive form of ALL and can be taken during or after chemotherapy.
- Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy uses high-powered beams, such as X-rays, to kill cancer cells. Your doctor may suggest radiation therapy if the cancer cells have spread to the central nervous system.
- Stem cell transplant: A stem cell transplant may be used as consolidation therapy in people at high risk of relapse. This procedure allows someone with leukaemia to re-establish healthy stem cells by replacing leukemic bone marrow with leukaemia-free marrow from a healthy person.
Though treatment for acute lymphocytic leukaemia (ALL) has a high success rate, it is normally a long process with intense initial three to six months. Adults may be able to resume work during maintenance phases.