Author: Marilyn Keeley

Pediatric leukemia: A guide for parents

8-year-old leukemia patient visits with her doctor
Dr. Leslie Lehmann and pediatric leukemia patient, Emma Duffin

What is leukemia?

Leukemia is a type of cancer that starts in early forms of white blood cells. White blood cells are cells that typically fight infections. Early forms of white blood cells live in bone marrow, the spongy tissue inside most bones in the body. When early white blood cells become leukemia (or cancer cells), they grow out of control and crowd out the normal young blood cells in the bone marrow. From there, the cancerous cells spread through the blood to other parts of the body.

Leukemia is either fast growing (acute) or slower growing (chronic). Almost all leukemia in children is acute. From most common to most rare, the four types of pediatric leukemia are: Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), acute myelogenous leukemia (AML), chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) and juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia (JMML). ALL affects white blood cells called lymphocytes, whereas AML affects white blood cells called myeloid cells.

How is leukemia diagnosed?

The first test usually performed to diagnose leukemia is a complete blood count (CBC) to determine how many types of each blood cell are in the blood. Children with leukemia often do not have normal numbers of red blood cells and platelets.

Read Full Story