Tag: Leukemia

January 21, 2015

Kent1-449x560Overview

The term “cancer” describes a group of diseases in which cells in a part of the body grow out of control. Cancer can originate from anywhere in the body and can spread to other parts of the body. Some cancers form a solid tumor but others, like cancer of the blood, do not. Cancer affects people of all ages, including children and youth. Although cancer among children and teens is rare, cancer remains the leading cause of death from disease in children under 15.

Most cancers that occur in children are caused by changes in the genetic component within the body cell during early childhood.  You cannot “catch” cancer nor give it to someone else. Unlike many other diseases, there is no known way to prevent childhood cancer.

 

Leading Cancer Types in Children and Youth

  • Leukemia – Leukemia is the most common cancer type for this age group. It describes a group of cancers of the blood or bone marrow, caused by abnormal production of blood cells.
  • Brain and nervous system cancers – This is the second most common type of cancers for children and youth. It can lead to tumors in the cerebellum, brain stem, cerebral hemispheres, and other parts of the nervous system.
  • Neuroblastoma – This cancer affects immature nerve cells and usually occurs in infancy or early childhood.
  • Wilms tumor – This cancer arises in one or both kidneys and may spread to nearby organs. It usually occurs in early childhood.
  • Lymphoma – This is a diverse group of cancers originating from the lymph tissues, such as lymph nodes, lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell), and thymus.

Signs and Symptoms of Childhood Cancer

If you experience any of the following symptoms, be sure to tell your doctor right away so that the problem can be diagnosed and treated. Most of the time, these symptoms may be due to reasons other than cancer.

  • Persistent fever, vision problems, headaches, nausea, joint or bone pain
  • Chronic fatigue or infections
  • Swelling or lump in the abdomen, arm pit, neck, or groin
  • Night sweats
  • Easy bruising
  • Unexplained weight loss

Common Types of Cancer Treatment

  • Surgery: Surgery can serve many purposes, including the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. To detect or confirm the presence of cancer, a small tissue sample can be removed from a suspected area. If cancer is confirmed, the tissue sample can also help identify the stage of the disease, although additional examination may be necessary. Surgery can be done to remove part or all of a tumor.
  • Chemotherapy: This treatment uses drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy treats cancer by targeting fast-growing cells. However, this treatment may damage other healthy, fast-growing cells, such as those in the hair, intestine, and bone marrow. Common side effects include nausea, vomiting, fatigue, appetite changes, loss of hair, suppressed immunity, digestive problems and others. Chemotherapy can be given by mouth, or by injection into the vein.
  • Radiation Therapy: This treatment uses radiation to kill cancer cells. Radiation therapy works by destroying the genetic material of the cancer cells so they will not be able to grow. Radiation can be delivered from an external machine or from small radioactive materials implanted into the tissues near the cancer site. Similar to chemotherapy, this treatment may cause damage to healthy cells. Depending on the area being treated, side effects vary.
  • Bone Marrow or Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Transplant (BMT or PBSCT): These procedures involve the transplantation of blood-forming stem cells found in the bone marrow (the soft material inside the bones) or in the peripheral bloodstream. Stem cells divide and grow into mature blood cells, which serve important functions in the body. Blood-forming stem cells can be damaged by diseases as well as by chemotherapy and radiation. The purpose of BMT and PBSCT is to replace the damaged stem cells with healthy ones. Stem cell transplant is most commonly used in the treatment of leukemia and lymphoma.

 

For More Information on Childhood Cancer:

October 22, 2014

WHAT IS LEUKEMIA?

Leukemia is a cancer of the bone marrow and blood cells where an abnormally large amount of white blood cells are produced.  It is the most common cancer among children and adolescents, accounting for 1 out of 3 cancer cases.

 

HOW DOES LEUKEMIA DEVELOP?

When healthy, the bone marrow makes three types of blood cells:

  • Red Blood Cells – carry oxygen to all parts of the body
  • White Blood Cells – help fight off infections
  • Platelets – helps the blood clot when there is an open wound

The bone marrow of persons with leukemia makes many immature white blood cells called blasts. When a large number of blasts are produced, they crowd out the bone marrow from producing normal blood cells. This can lead to anemia, infection and easy bleeding.

 

CAN LEUKEMIA BE PREVENTED?

Currently, there are no known ways to prevent childhood leukemia. Leukemia is NOT linked to lifestyle risk factors such as diet and exercise

 

COMMON TYPES TYPE OF LEUKEMIA IN CHILDREN AND YOUNG ADULTS

There are several types of leukemia, depending on how rapidly it develops and which type of white blood cell is affected. Acute leukemia progresses rapidly if untreated, while chronic leukemia is very slow and may take months or years to develop.

The two acute forms of leukemia most common in children are:

  • Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL): Accounts for about 70% of leukemia cases. ALL is most common in early childhood, peaking at ages 2-4.
  • Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML): Accounts for about 30% of leukemia cases. AML is more common among children under the age of 2 and teenagers.

 

RISK FACTORS ASSOCIATED WITH LEUKEMIA

  • Exposure to high levels of radiation
  • Mother’s exposure to X-ray during pregnancy
  • Having a genetic disease, such as Down syndrome
  • Having a sibling with leukemia

 

COMMON SYMPTOMS OF LEUKEMIA

  • Fever and night sweats
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty Breathing
  • Coughing
  • Bruising or bleeding easily
  • Bone or joint pain
  • Swollen belly
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the armpit, neck, or groin
  • Frequent infections
  • Extreme fatigue and weakness
  • Loss of appetite

 

DIAGNOSIS OF LEUKEMIA

Since symptoms of leukemia are similar to symptoms of other diseases, only your doctor can confirm if you have leukemia through medical tests, medical history and physical exam. Samples of your blood, spinal fluid, and bone marrow will be taken and checked for abnormalities. In addition to blood tests, imaging tests such as Chest X-Rays, Computed tomography (CT) scans, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), and Ultrasounds may also be ordered.

 

TREATMENT OF LEUKEMIA

The primary treatment for leukemia is CHEMOTHERAPY, where anticancer drugs are given to kill the cancer cells.  The drugs are usually injected into the vein, and/or fluid around the brain and spinal cord. The total length of chemotherapy and follow-up treatments can last between 2-3 years. Although chemotherapy kills leukemia cells, it also harms normal cells. Some possible side effects are:

  • hair loss
  • mouth sores
  • loss of appetite
  • diarrhea
  • nausea and vomiting
  • increased risk of infections (because of low white blood cell counts)
  • bruising and bleeding easily (from low platelet counts)
  • fatigue (caused by low red blood cell counts)

In addition to chemotherapy, sometimes RADIATION and STEM CELL TRANSPLANT may be used. Radiation uses high energy X-rays to destroy cancer cells.  In stem cell transplant, healthy stem cells from a matching donor are introduced into the body to make new healthy blood cells.

With recent advances in treatment, children with leukemia are living longer into adulthood. The remission and cure rates for childhood leukemia continue to rise and the outlook for children diagnosed with leukemia is better than ever.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON LEUKEMIA:

National Cancer Institute www.cancer.gov
American Cancer Society www.cancer.org