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Pediatric Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL)
Leukemia is cancer caused by abnormal white blood cells. These cells are produced in bone marrow and normally help the body fight infection.
The most common type of leukemia in children is acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). In this disease, the body produces too many lymphoblasts (a type of white blood cell) and they become cancerous. It is separated into two groups based on the type of lymphocyte the leukemia started in. That would be B cells or T cells. About 8 out of 10 cases of ALL in children are B-cell ALLs. These can be further classified into sub-types. The other 2 out of 10 cases are T-cell ALLs.
Learn more about our Leukemia/Lymphoma Program at Children’s National Hospital.
Medical experts don’t know the specific cause of acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Some risk factors that may be involved include:
- Inherited defects
- Radiation exposure
Common signs and symptoms of acute lymphoblastic leukemia can occur in other illnesses. You should see your pediatrician if your child has any of the following:
- Unexplained fever and headaches
- Enlarged lymph nodes in the neck, arm pits or groin
- Pain in the arms, legs or back
- Easy bruising and bleeding
- Tiny red spots in the skin
- Fatigue and low energy
- Shortness of breath
- Unexplained weight loss
If your pediatrician suspects that your child has acute lymphoblastic leukemia, he or she will perform further tests to confirm a diagnosis:
- Complete medical evaluation
- Blood tests to evaluate red and white blood cell count and platelet count
- Needle aspiration or biopsy to check for any problems with cells or genes in bone marrow
- Further examination of these tests to determine the subtype of acute lymphoblastic leukemia your child may have
Early treatment is important to ensure that your child can completely recover. Treatments that we recommend at Children’s National include:
- Chemotherapy to damage or kill abnormal lymphoblasts (white blood cells)
- Stem cell transplantation in select cases from a healthy donor to regrow healthy red and white blood cells and platelets
Marco Gutierrez, a 19-year-old from Potomac, MD., was enjoying dinner with family and friends after a University of Michigan football game when pain started to pulse through his chest and back.
Christopher Melkonian was six years old when he came down with a low-grade fever and diffuse bone pain. Unsure of what was happening, his parents Darlene and David took him to Children’s National Hospital and soon found out that Christopher had acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), a type of blood and bone marrow cancer that affects white blood cells.
Saved by a bone marrow donation from her brother, Davis, and strengthened by a personalized T-cell therapy post transplant, Molly’s life is back on track and she’s dancing again.
When Chris's parents noticed he had lingering pain and swollen lymph nodes, they knew it was time to take him to the doctor.
We deliver comprehensive care for all blood cancers including chemotherapy, bone marrow transplant and experimental therapeutics.
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Just before Christmas, Nkenge and Tanya took their 2-year-old daughter Kensley to the Emergency Department because she was complaining of stomach pain and they could feel a bulge in her abdomen. Kensley was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma and continues to received treatment from Amy Hont, M.D., and the multidisciplinary team of surgeons, gynecologists and radiation oncologists at Children's National.
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