Cancer starts when cells start to grow out of control. Cells in nearly any part of the body can become cancer. Leukaemia is a cancer where large numbers of abnormal white blood cells are produced in the bone marrow. These abnormal white cells crowd the bone marrow and flood the bloodstream, but they cannot perform their proper role of protecting the body against disease because they are defective. As leukaemia advances, the cancer interferes with the body's production of red blood cells and platelets. This leads to low numbers of red cells and bleeding problems along with risk infection caused by white blood cell abnormalities.
Tests and diagnosis for childhood leukaemia
It is tough for children to cope with cancers, but thankfully, the chances for a cure are very good with leukaemia. With proper treatment, most children with leukaemia will be free of the disease without the chance recurrence.
Symptoms related to childhood leukaemia
Because their infection-fighting white blood cells are defective, children with leukaemia may have more viral or bacterial infections than usual. They also may become anaemic because leukaemia affects the bone marrow's production of oxygen-carrying red blood cells. Other symptoms of leukaemia can include:
Tests and diagnoses for childhood leukaemia may include:
Treatment options for childhood leukaemia
- The doctor also will ask for medical history by examining symptoms, past health, the family's health history etc
- The doctor will do a physical examination to check for signs of infection, anaemia, abnormal bleeding, and swollen lymph nodes
- The doctor will perform a Complete Blood Count test to measure the numbers of white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets in the child's blood.
- He/she will do a bone marrow biopsy and aspiration, where marrow samples are removed for testing
- He/she will do a lymph node biopsy, where lymph nodes are removed and examined under a microscope to look for cancer cells
- He/she will do a lumbar puncture (spinal tap) test, where a sample of spinal fluid is removed from the lower back and examined for evidence of abnormal cells
- The doctor will also perform some imaging tests like X-rays, ultrasounds, CT scans or MRIs
Treatment for childhood leukaemia depends on patient’s age and initial white blood cell count. Treatment options include:
- Chemotherapy is the common treatment for childhood leukaemia, although the dosages and drug combinations may be different. Chemo can be given orally, into a vein, or into the spinal fluid.
- Other forms of treatment include radiation therapy which uses high energy rays to destroy cancer cells, targeted therapy which involves drugs that identify and attack cancer cells without harming normal cells and stem cell transplants where healthy stem cells into the body are introduced.
With the right kind of treatment, the prognosis of childhood leukaemia is extremely good. Most childhood leukaemia cases, when treated properly show no evidence of cancer cells in the body.