Leukemia is a cancer of the blood cells. Three main types of blood cells are:
The most common types of leukemia in children are:
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Leukemia starts in the bone marrow where blood cells are made. It happens when certain blood cells divide without control or order. The abnormal cells crowd out the healthy blood cells. This causes many of the symptoms.
The cause of leukemia is not clear. It is likely a combination of genes and environment.
Things that may raise the risk of leukemia in children are:
Symptoms of leukemia may be:
The doctor will ask about the child’s symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. The doctor will check for swelling of the liver, spleen, or lymph nodes.
Tests will be done to look for abnormal cells. They may include:
If cancer cells are found, more tests may be done. These tests will check if and where any cancer has spread. Tests may include imaging, such as:
The goal for acute leukemia is to destroy cancer cells and return the blood and bone marrow to normal. Symptoms may need to be treated first. Treatment may include:
Treatment is based on the type of leukemia. One or more options may be used, such as:
There are no current guidelines to prevent leukemia in children.
American Cancer Society
Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
Canadian Cancer Society
Provincial Health Services Authority
Acute lymphoblastic leukemia/lymphoma (ALL). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/acute-lymphoblastic-leukemia-lymphoma-all. Accessed March 24, 2021.
Childhood cancers. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/childhood-cancers. Updated August 30, 2017. Accessed March 24, 2021.
Leukemia in children. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/leukemia-in-children.html. Accessed March 24, 2021.
Leukemia in children. Boston Children's Hospital website. Available at: http://www.childrenshospital.org/conditions-and-treatments/conditions/leukemia. Accessed March 24, 2021.
Leukemia. Leukemia & Lymphoma Society website. Available at: http://www.lls.org/leukemia. Accessed March 24, 2021.
Van Maele-Fabry G, Gamet-Payrastre L, et al. Household exposure to pesticides and risk of leukemia in children and adolescents: updated systematic review and meta-analysis. Int J Hyg Environ Health. 2019;222(1):49-67
Last reviewed January 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP Last Updated: 3/24/2021