What is Pediatric Leukemia?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 25 March 2020
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Pediatric leukemia is a cancer of the white blood cells which occurs in children. There are a number of different types of pediatric leukemia, each of which requires a slightly different treatment approach, and the prognosis for children who have been diagnosed varies, depending on the age of the child, the type of leukemia, and the stage at which it has been identified. Around 25% of all childhood cancers are forms of leukemia.

This type of cancer occurs when abnormal growth occurs in the white blood cells of the bone marrow. Leukemia typically involves a particular type of white blood cell, which proceeds to crowd out healthy and normal cells, eventually causing bleeding disorders and other symptoms as the body is flooded with the abnormal cells. If the condition is not treated, it can lead to death, typically as a result of the invasion of the brain and spinal cord by the cancerous cells.

Leukemia can be broken into acute leukemia, in which the onset of the condition is very rapid, or chronic leukemia, in which onset occurs slowly. Around 98% of children who develop leukemia experience acute pediatric leukemia, which is characterized by joint pain, fatigue, bruising, and clotting disorders. The most common type of acute leukemia in children is acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), also known as acute lymphoblastic leukemia. This type of pediatric leukemia involves the B and T cells.


Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML), another type of pediatric leukemia, involves the granulocytes, another type of white blood cell. More rarely, children can experience chronic myelogenous leukemia.

When a child is diagnosed with pediatric leukemia, usually as the result of bloodwork and biopsies, he or she is usually subjected to chemotherapy and radiation which are designed to kill the rogue cells. In some cases, it may be necessary to perform a bone marrow transplant to provide the body with a supply of normal, healthy bone marrow which can produce healthy white blood cells. Preventative measures may also be taken to limit the spread of the leukemia to the brain and spinal cord.

Treatment for pediatric leukemia is generally supervised by a pediatric oncologist, a doctor who specializes in childhood cancers. Different oncologists may have different approaches to treatment, and parents may want to consider meeting with several doctors to find one with a treatment approach which meets their needs. Although pediatric patients are usually not given control over their medical treatment, parents may find that their children are more cooperative with treatment when they are given a chance to participate in decision making and other medical discussions.



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Post 3

@alisha, @burcinc-- I think nurses and doctors don't want to jump to conclusions and worry parents for no reason. That's why many of us whose kids have pediatric leukemia were initially brushed off saying that "it's a virus," "it's pneumonia," "it's just the flu." A mother's intuition is so important for this reason. A mother always knows when something is not right with their child and we see the symptoms first hand.

I don't blame doctors though. The symptoms of childhood leukemia are here, there, everywhere. Some kids just have joint pains, some just have bruising, some don't even have apparent symptoms. It's not easy to put all this together. And pediatric cancer is definitely not the first thing that comes to mind.

Post 2

@alisha-- I'm happy to hear that your niece is doing well! My son is also on his way to becoming a cancer survivor, he has acute pediatric leukemia (acute lymphoblastic leukemia).

His diagnosis was also very difficult, especially because the blood test weren't showing anything out of the ordinary. He was always running a fever though, and we were often in the doctor's office or the ER because we couldn't lower his temperature. His doctor initially thought that he was suffering from an infectious disease. But when he couldn't find anything in the blood tests, he decided to send us to oncology anyway. It was after the bone marrow biopsy that we came to know what was really going


Medications and chemotherapy was what followed, but things are starting to look up for us finally. Hopefully, we will be able to call my son a survivor soon. Childhood leukemia is definitely one of the most challenging illnesses a child and a family can go through.

Post 1
My niece was diagnosed with chronic leukemia when she was six. Before her diagnosis, she would get sick a lot, and was thin and tired. My sister and her husband thought that she just had a weak immune system. But when she started getting nose bleeds often, they had blood work done which showed that her blood cell counts were abnormal.

It was a really hard time. I think the several months before the diagnosis was even harder than her treatment period. We just didn't know what was wrong with her and the anxiety and fear was unbearable.

I think my niece is a lucky girl because her condition was caught early and she started pediatric leukemia treatment right away. She is now eleven years old, her leukemia is in remission. She goes in for monthly checkups to make sure her blood counts are normal. She is like any other girl her age, looks healthy and happy, thank God!

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