The leukemia is cancer more common in childhood. Any child can have it, from a newborn to a teenager, however, most small diagnosed with this disease are between 4 to 9 years old.
It is proved that there is a better prognosis for children between 1 to 9 years. Those with 10 or more years are at increased risk for leukemia more aggressive, not responding to treatment, and children younger than 1 year have a more delicate situation.
Types of leukemia
Leukemia can be grouped into two large blocks: acute leukemia and chronic leukemia. Even so, within each of these groups there are different subtypes of leukemia with very different characteristics and prognosis among them.
In general, they are leukemia of rapid growth and sudden onset. They are classified depending on the type of cell that proliferates, highlighting the following:
- Lymphoblastic leukemia (Acute lymphoid leukemia or ALL): When the neoplastic cell has a lymphoid origin. This leukemia is more frequent in children than in adults.
- Myeloblastic leukemia (acute myeloid leukemia or AML): If the neoplastic cell is of myeloid origin. They are more frequent with increasing age.
Of slower growth and more frequent in adults than in minors. Following the differentiation of cell origin, the following should be highlighted:
- Chronic lymphoid leukemia or CLL: It is the most frequent leukemia. It accounts for 30% of all leukemia. It affects especially males over 60 years. The lymphocytes are morphologically normal, but functionally anomalous.
- Chronic myeloid leukemia or CML: It accounts for 15% of chronic adult leukemia. The age of presentation is between the third and sixth decades of life, being a rare disease in children and the elderly. It is characterized by a predominant increase in the granulocytic series, responsible for the production of leukocytes.
Signs of leukemia in children
The truth is that there are many types of leukemia; therefore, the symptoms will be different depending on the type of leukemia in question.
There are numerous symptoms that can lead us to think that the child has leukemia, but experiencing these symptoms is not significant that the child does have the disease, but can be attributed to other ailments. Therefore, if these symptoms appear, before worrying too much, we must go to the doctor so that really, through some tests, we can diagnose what is happening to the child.
Leukemia not only manifests itself through the blood, but it can also invade other tissues, and therefore the symptoms will vary depending on where they are located.
- If the child has low red blood cells, or what is called anemia, the child will experience fatigue, will be weak, will feel cold, dizziness, headaches, difficulty breathing and pale skin tone.
- However, if white blood cells are low, the child will have a greater propensity to have infections. Sometimes a simple blood test does not give the expected results, because although the number of white blood cells is normal, they may be useless blood cells to cope with infections because they are weakened by the leukemia cells. It is very common for children to have continuous fevers, even if they do not have an infection.
- If the child has low platelets, they will easily bruise and have frequent bleeding from the nose and gums.
- Other common symptoms are pains in bones and joints, due to a concentration of cancer cells near the surface of the bone or inside the joint.
- Some children have an inflamed abdomen when leukemia cells accumulate in the liver or spleen. They are usually children who are not hungry and lose weight quickly due to that inflammation of the organs near the stomach.
- If the cancer cells are distributed through the lymph nodes, especially in the neck, armpits or groin, these are enlarged and are palpable by the doctor, although it is best to do an imaging study. If the infected node is found in the chest, some children have trouble breathing because the ganglion presses the trachea.
- Another most worrisome symptom is if the child has swelling in the face or arms, in what is known as SVC syndrome, which means that the blood does not reach the upper part of the body correctly; which can cause headaches, dizziness, and even loss of consciousness. This symptom requires immediate treatment because it can be fatal.
- Children in whom cancer cells have spread to the brain and spinal cord, usually present with vomiting, headaches and seizures.
- In the specific case of acute myeloid leukemia, the leukemia spreads through the gums, causing pain and bleeding. It can also manifest on the skin in the form of small dark spots, which may look like a rash.
Anyway, that the child presents these symptoms does not mean that he has leukemia, but as we have said before, it may be due to another ailment, and only the doctor, through several tests, can effectively diagnose if it really leukemia.
Key to overcoming leukemia
The explanation for this difference in their evolution lies at the origin of the leukemic cells. The lymphoblastic leukemia is the most aggressive T-cell leukemia, most commonly in adolescents with symptomatic with fever, malaise, bleeding, enlarged liver, spleen, lymph nodes and the presence of complications that threaten life quickly.
These patients require very intensive treatment based chemotherapy for two and a half years, and combination drugs that contribute to entirely destroy the cancer cells with a high degree of effectiveness that gradually allow small resume his life.
A child with leukemia requires for its treatment in a basic scheme of chemotherapy, and in some cases radiotherapy, to thus reduce possible risk of recurrence of the disease.
While the treatment is long and requires a total attachment to the scheme designed for particular case, the chances of cure and survive this disease are encouraging, since in the case of acute lymphoblastic leukemia, was able to cure 70-90% of cases, depending on the aggressiveness of the different types that may occur.