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Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) in Children



About Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL)

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (also called acute lymphocytic leukemia, or ALL) in children is cancer of the blood that starts in the bone marrow and spreads to the bloodstream. Leukemia starts in the bone marrow, the spongy internal part of bones where new blood is made. The term leukemia comes from Greek words for white and blood, because ALL affects white blood cells.

Leukemia develops because of a mutation in a white blood cell that causes it to multiply uncontrollably. These mutated white blood cells, called “blasts” take over the bone marrow and crowd out normal blood cells. One blast soon generates billions of other blasts, with a total of about a trillion leukemia cells typically present in the body at the time of diagnosis.

ALL is the most common children’s cancer, accounting for 25% of all cancers in children under the age of 15. There are over 3,000 new cases of ALL diagnosed in children and adolescents (0-19 years old) in the United States each year.

BloodcellsSigns and Symptoms of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia

Leukemia cells “crowd out” normal blood cells. The decrease in normal cells causes the symptoms of leukemia, which may include:

  • Fatigue and being pale results from a decreased number of red blood cells, known as anemia
  • Fever due to the disease itself or from infection because there are a decreased number of healthy white blood cells, known as neutropenia
  • Bruising or bleeding from decreased platelets, known as thrombocytopenia
  • Bone pain, sometimes associated with swelling of the joints
  • Weight loss or loss of appetite
  • Enlarged lymph nodes

The signs and symptoms of ALL can be the same as more common children’s illnesses and some children are treated for those other illnesses before leukemia is diagnosed. Most children with ALL have symptoms for a few weeks to several months before a cancer diagnosis is made. The amount of time between the onset of symptoms and the cancer diagnosis does not change the chances for cure.


News About Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia

Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) in Children was last modified: July 26th, 2016 by Geoff Duncan
Jackie Nees, Mother

Jackie Nees, Mother

When Jackie’s son Bradley was only 4.5 months old, he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Since diagnosis, he has experienced everything from an emergency blood transfusion in the middle of a dangerous thunderstorm to aggressive chemotherapy... read more
Interview with Dr. Kara Davis, Young Investigator

Interview with Dr. Kara Davis, Young Investigator

We’re proud of the groundbreaking work coming out of our Young Investigator Program, which supports investigators early in their research career. One of these investigators is Dr. Kara Davis, whose work is focused on acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). We asked... read more
Zane Davidson, Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia

Zane Davidson, Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia

10 Years Old at Diagnosis Written by Susan Davidson My son, Zane, at 10-years-old, came home one day and started having strange muscle pains. They would come and go, and we let it slide as “growing pains.” That’s normal for a 10-year-old kid to be... read more

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