Leukemia is a type of cancer that occurs within the white blood cells. Children who develop leukemia show abnormal amounts of white blood cells in their bone marrow. While white blood cells have the role of protecting our bodies from disease, abnormal white blood cells are defective and overcrowd the bone marrow, interfering with the proper functioning of all blood cells inside the body.
There are two main types of childhood leukemia. Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) can appear and worsen rather quickly. The symptoms associated with acute lymphocytic leukemia can appear quickly as well. Acute lymphocytic leukemia accounts for approximately 80% of all childhood leukemia cases and is sometimes known as lymphoid leukemia or lymphoblastic leukemia.
Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) is a slower forming type of leukemia, and a doctor can sometimes diagnose this leukemia before any symptoms have even appeared. Acute myelogenous leukemia accounts for approximately 20% of all childhood leukemia cases and is sometimes referred to as myeloid, myelocytic, myeloblastic or granulocytic leukemia. A type of leukemia called chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), grows slower than AML and has been found in children, although it is extremely rare. This type of leukemia is developed through chromosome rearrangements inside the body.
Childhood leukemia symptoms for AML may include anemia since there is not enough red blood cells to transport oxygen throughout the body. This quick-growing disease can make a child look extremely pale, feel very tired and weak, and they may bleed or bruise easier than other kids their age. Other common childhood leukemia symptoms that accompany all childhood leukemia cases include fever and fatigue.
The child may be prone to frequent infections throughout the body. Lumps may be detected in the groin, stomach, neck or under the arms. The lumps in these areas could be a sign of swollen lymph nodes.
Most childhood leukemia symptoms accompany some sort of pain in the bones and joints. The pain is a result of the bone marrow being overcrowded with defective white blood cells. A child may have a loss of appetite or an upset stomach. They may experience persistent coughing and wheezing. Petechiae, which are tiny red spots found under the skin, is another symptom a child may have.
Any or all of these childhood leukemia symptoms may be a sign that a child's body is being attacked be numerous defective white blood cells and should be seen by a doctor immediately. If childhood leukemia is diagnosed early enough, most cases can be treated and have a positive outcome. The children usually go into remission and live normal, healthy lives.