Leukemia: Zooming in on the most common of pediatric cancers

Learn to detect leukemia early on
Leukemia is the most common of pediatric cancers.

Cancer has positioned itself on the second spot next only to cardiovascular disease when it comes to the most common cause of death, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. With that factual statistics concerning cancer almost bagging top one position, should be enough to cause an alarm. It’s about time people should be informed about the most common of childhood cancers which is “leukemia.”

According to a 2009 article written by Jose Maria Rivera, M.D. and colleagues, published in Hematology/Oncology Clinics of North America, “one out of every three children with cancer is diagnosed with leukemia.” But what should parents be doing to give their kids with leukemia a fighting chance? Well, in my humble opinion, they must learn to detect leukemia early on. That’s one of the best things parents could do to start with. It is every parent’s duty, especially in an era when leukemia tops all other cancers in children, to learn about the said disease plaguing kids.

DEFECTIVE BONE MARROW OR BLOOD

Cancer of the bone marrow or blood is called leukemia. The signs and symptoms of this particular type of cancer could be reflected in the way different blood cells are working. The white blood cells, as what we’re told in Biology class at school, serve as the body’s army fighting infection; the red blood cells are responsible for transporting oxygen to the different parts of the body, while the platelets, on the other hand, help in blood clotting.

Leukemia should be looked upon as something that would manifest as an infection, bleeding, or anemia. One of the most common symptoms of leukemia is fever. But that is not just ordinary fever though. It is a febrile condition that does not just go away despite adequate treatment. So when a child has been treated with antibiotics several times but his fever keeps coming back, there’s a possibility of leukemia that must be considered.

There are other signs as well to consider aside from a recurring fever, and these are paleness, large abdomen, enlargement of lymph nodes, and bruising in covered areas. It is common for young children to get bruises most of the time, but those with leukemia usually are getting these on their extremities. A quick blood test is necessary to detect leukemia early on.

WHAT CAUSES LEUKEMIA

Genetic and other factors could make a child prone to leukemia. If there’s a strong history of cancer in the family, then there’s a great possibility for such genetic abnormalities to transfer from one generation to another. Another factor is exposure to radiation and chemicals. Yes, even the very drugs that are used to treat cancer—the chemotherapy drugs—could lead to leukemia.

HOW TO TREAT LEUKEMIA

Eradicating all leukemia cells via chemotherapy is the initial phase of treatment. The next phase is all about gearing towards preventing the disease from involving the nervous system. The third and last phase is aimed at prolonging the disease-free interval.

TYPES OF LEUKEMIA

Comprising a majority of cases in children is the acute leukemia. The most common type is acute lymphoblastic leukemia or ALL, which is responsible for about three-fourths of all cases. Then there’s acute myeloblastic leukemia or AML which covers twenty percent of childhood leukemia cases.

Chronic leukemia, on the other hand, is relatively uncommon. For instance, chronic myeloid leukemia or CML is responsible for only three percent of pediatric cases. Acute lymphoblastic leukemia occurs in kids two to five years of age, while acute myeloblastic is more common in newborns and adolescents.

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