Cancer

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL)

Description

ALL is one a very common form of cancer mostly found in children that builds by overproduction of undeveloped white blood cells, also known as lymphoblastic or leukemic blasts. It restricts the body from creating normal blood cells by crowding the bone marrow. They have the tendency to mix into the blood stream and flow all over the body, causing severe damage to many parts of the body. As these cells are immature, they don’t function properly and could not fight the infection. This can cause anaemia, bleeding and bruising to the child along with several other diseases.

Causes of ALL

ALL is largely a result of mutation in blood cell development genes. Other factors that increase the risk of ALL are

  • Heavy radiation exposure such as nuclear accident
  • Contact with industrial chemicals like pesticides, benzene and kinds of chemotherapy that are used to treat cancers.
  • Certain infections and the abnormal behavior of the immune system may also play a main role in the development of ALL.
  • People affected with Down’s syndrome and Fanconi’s anaemia have a higher risk as well.

Treatment of Acute lymphoblastic leukemia

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia can be diagnosed from bone marrow biopsy, full blood count (FBC) and examination. ALL needs to be diagnosed as early as possible as it progresses quickly. The method of treatment depends on several factors such as the genetic makeup of leukemic cells, type of ALL, age and health condition of the patient.

Chemotherapy is often used to treat ALL. It includes a combination of some drugs and steroids for a certain period of time in order to destroy the immature white blood cells and provoke a remission until no leukemic cells are left. This makes blood cell production back to normal and increase the blood count as well. Bone marrow transplant can be done once the disease is in remission.

Radiotherapy is also used to prevent relapse, however, it can cause infertility.

Complications

Every treatment can cause side effects and so does ALL. The severity of the complications may vary on patients. It is important to inform the doctor about any symptoms you experience after the treatment. In most of such cases, treatment can be done easily, while few requires other procedures. Complications include

  • Blood counts may fall within a week after treatment, which may take time to recuperate. Certain medications and antibiotics can treat this and prevent infection.
  • Anaemia is also likely to happen.
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Hair loss
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Ulcers or mucositis
  • Diarrhea
  • Dryness
  • Fertility issues
  • Sensitivity to sunlight or rashes

Post operative care

After the child is treated, parents need to take extra care on certain matters. Once the child is discharged, the doctor will advise you follow up appointments and regular medications, which will become fewer as the time goes by. But you need to detect any unnecessary changes or abnormalities, if occurs, and take necessity action.

BactrimTM (Septra), a prescription needs to be taken 2-3 days every week.

Check your child’s blood counts if he/she feels tired. If low, contact the treatment center at once.

Your child will continue to feel fatigue and weakness as it takes some time to build stamina and strength.