Joined: 02 September 2006
Leukemia is one of the most common childhood cancers. It occurs when large numbers of abnormal white blood cells called leukemic blasts fill the bone marrow and sometimes enter the bloodstream.
Because these abnormal blood cells are defective, they don't help protect the body against infection the way normal white blood cells do. And because they grow uncontrollably, they take over the bone marrow and interfere with the body's production of other important types of cells in the bloodstream, like red blood cells (which carry oxygen) and platelets (which help blood to clot).
Leukemia causes problems like bleeding, anemia (low numbers of red blood cells), bone pain, and infections. It can also spread to other places like the lymph nodes, liver, spleen, brain, and the testicles in males.
The types of leukemia most likely to occur in teens are acute lymphocytic (pronounced: lim-fuh-sih-tik) leukemia (ALL) and acute myelogenous (pronounced: my-uh-ladj-uh-nus) leukemia (AML).
Virtually all people with ALL and AML are treated with chemotherapy, and some also receive stem cell transplants, in which they are given new stem cells from another person. Bone marrow transplants are a common form of stem cell transplantation. Some people also receive radiation. The length of treatment and types of medicine given will vary depending on the type of leukemia.
The chances for a cure are very good with certain kinds of leukemia. With treatment, most patients with ALL and many patients with AML are free of the disease without recurrence.