Leukemia means that the bone marrow begins to form a large number of diseased white blood cells, also called leukemia cells. The diseased cells push away the healthy blood formation in the bone marrow. Eventually, the leukemia cells also spread to other organs in the body, such as the liver, spleen, or to the central nervous system.
There are mainly two types of leukemia in children:
- Acute lymphatic leukemia, ALL is most common. Every fourth child who gets cancer gets ALL. A little more than eight out of ten children who get leukemia get ALL.
- Acute myeloid leukemia, AML is a little less common. A little more than 1 in ten children who have leukemia receive AML.
In addition to ALL and AML, there are also more rare leukemia forms, such as chronic myeloid leukemia, KML, which a few children a year get.
More than eight out of ten children who get ALL get rid of the disease. Six to seven out of ten children who get AML get rid of the disease.
Symptoms that may be due to leukemia are that the child is pale and feels tired for an extended period of time. The child can also often get bruises and bleeding wounds. Other symptoms may be decreased appetite, stomach upset, fever or infections of the child. Sometimes the child may feel swelling in the groin, stomach, neck or armpits. Most children who have leukemia also suffer from bone and joint pain. In some children the disease is slow, other children can quickly become very ill.
The most common is that children with leukemia receive cytostatic drugs. Children with ALL first receive intensive treatment. Subsequently, more cytostatic treatments are given in different rounds, which can be different intensive. The purpose is to prevent the disease from recurring. It is common for the entire treatment period to last between two and two and a half years. During the last part of treatment, the child is usually able to receive the medication as tablets.
Children with AML often receive intensive cytostatic therapy for about six months.
Sometimes the cytostatic treatment is supplemented with radiotherapy to those parts of the body where the cytostatic has less good effect, for example against the central nervous system or the testes.
For some children, ordinary cytostatic treatment is not enough, but the child may need to do a stem cell transplant, something formerly called bone marrow transplant.
Usually with post-checks for a long time
All children may go on post-check-ups quite often for several years, partly to find out if the disease is coming back, and partly to see how the body works and develops. The child may need to go on checks even in adulthood as some complications may come a long time afterwards. It depends on what treatment the child has received.