Stories about: leukemia

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 | Leave a Comment

Superheroes, super kids in super costumes don’t let cancer stop Halloween

Children from the Jimmy Fund Clinic and their families trick or treat through Dana Farber.
Children from the Jimmy Fund Clinic and their families trick or treat through Dana Farber. Photo courtesy of Sydney Altschuler.

Abby Roxo likes to be unique on Halloween, and today she had unique totally covered.

The 9-year-old from Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, arrived at the outpatient clinic of Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center ready for the annual Halloween parade. Wearing a feathery white halo, white shirt and white pants with large black spots, Abby, who made her costume with the help of her sisters, also drew black spots on her cheeks and wore bright red lipstick.

What was she? “Holy cow!” she said.

Read Full Story | Leave a Comment

The new frontier: Improving safety of outpatient care done at home

central lineAfter Lacey Martin’s leukemia didn’t respond to initial rounds of chemotherapy and after she spent 10 weeks hospitalized for a stem cell transplant, the 11-year-old New Hampshire girl went home March 2 with an external line for medications that her mother would have to flush and clean twice a day. Lacey’s immune system and infection-fighting ability were so weakened from her treatment that she was under isolation precautions for six months after she left the hospital. Any bloodstream infection contracted through the line, which exited her chest, would be serious and potentially life-threatening.

It is terrifying knowing your child is so susceptible to bacteria and infection and you’re doing it in the house, with kids running around and the dog. I needed to know how to do it right, and I needed to know I could do it.

Caring for a child’s central line at home is, to say the least, a daunting responsibility.

“It’s extremely scary,” says Crystal Martin, Lacey’s mother. “It is terrifying knowing your child is so susceptible to bacteria and infection and you’re doing it in the house, with kids running around and the dog. I needed to know how to do it right, and I needed to know I could do it.”

This is the frontier of efforts to improve the quality of care. With more and more complex tasks moving from the hospital ward to the home, improving inpatient safety and quality of care is only the first step. After collaborating with other pediatric oncology programs to successfully reduce inpatient central-line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSIs), Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center has now launched an initiative to reduce outpatient CLABSIs.

The Martins are among the first families to participate.

Read Full Story | Leave a Comment

Teaghan swims through leukemia treatment


Holding hands, 3-year-old Teaghan Bresnahan and her mom run the length of the lake-front dock. At the dock’s end, Teaghan lets go — and gleefully leaps into the air to land in the water with a satisfying splash.

It may seem a typical summer scene. But for Teaghan, who has been in treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia for over a year, it’s particularly poignant. This type of leukemia usually requires two years of treatment. With the first year of more intense therapy now behind her, Teaghan is feeling better and getting a bit more swim time this summer.

Teaghan had always been healthy — in her first two years, her only sickness was a single ear infection. That’s why her parents, Mandy and James, were surprised at her two-year annual check-up to learn her blood levels were off. A second blood test three days later found her levels had worsened. Her pediatrician suspected a virus. That Sunday, however, Teaghan developed petechiae (small red spots caused by bleeding into the skin) and a fever. Teaghan’s doctor sent them straight to the emergency room. That night, May 3, 2015, Teaghan was diagnosed with leukemia. Treatment at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center started immediately.

Read Full Story | Leave a Comment