Leukemia in children: symptoms, therapy, prognosis

Martina Feichter studied biology with an elective in pharmacy in Innsbruck and also delved into the world of medicinal plants. From there it wasn’t far to other medical topics that still captivate them. She trained as a journalist at the Axel Springer Academy in Hamburg and has worked for NetDoktor since 2007 – first as an editor and since 2012 as a freelance writer.

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical professionals.

Leukemia in children The most common cancer in this age group is under 15 years of age: about one in 1,200 offspring falls ill each year "blood cancer" (Germany). Boys are affected more often than girls. Most of the young patients have acute leukemia. Read all you need to know about childhood leukemia!

Childhood leukemia: frequency

Around 600 children and adolescents develop leukemia in Germany every year. Children before school age are most often affected.

Most of the young patients have one acute leukemia. In about eight out of ten cases, this is one Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALLES). Sometimes one speaks of acute lymphoblastic leukemia. This disease is most common in children between the ages of 1 and 5. But it can occur at any age, even in adults.

With a share of almost 20 percent Acute myeloid leukemia the second most common form of leukemia in children and adolescents. In this age group, the disease usually occurs in the first two years of life, i.e. in infants and young children. Overall, however, acute myeloid leukemia (AML) mainly affects adults of older age.

One rarely develops Chronic myeloid leukemia or one Chronic lymphoblastic leukemia in children and adolescents.

Children’s leukemia: causes

The causes of leukemia in children (and other age groups) are not fully understood. A combination of a genetic predisposition and environmental factors presumably leads to the fact that blood cells start to multiply uncontrollably. This means that several factors must work together for leukemia to develop in children.

For example, various changes in chromosomes increase the risk of leukemia. Children with trisomy 21 (Down syndrome) are more likely to develop acute lymphoblastic leukemia than children with "normal" Chromosomes. Congenital or acquired diseases that disrupt and weaken the immune system also increase the risk of leukemia.

External factors that can contribute to the development of leukemia in children (and others) are, for example, radioactive radiation (such as X-rays) and cigarette and alcohol consumption by parents. Certain chemical substances and medications can also promote cancer development.

In individual cases, however, it is usually not possible to understand which triggers are exactly responsible for leukemia in children.

You can read more about the possible triggers of blood cancer under Leukemia: Causes and Risk Factors.

Children’s leukemia: symptoms

In cancer of the hematopoietic system, the composition of the blood is abnormally changed. Therefore, leukemia in children causes symptoms that with the Blood and its functions in association with. Examples of possible leukemia symptoms in children are:

  • paleness
  • Fatigue and fatigue
  • reduced performance
  • weakness
  • general malaise
  • dizziness
  • shortness of breath

In leukemia, these symptoms arise because the cancer cells displace the healthy red blood cells. Anemia develops with the above-mentioned signs.

Warning: Anemia can also have many other causes. It is not a clear indication of leukemia!

Additional leukemia symptoms are often observed in children. They are mainly caused by the lack of healthy white blood cells and platelets. Examples are:

  • increased susceptibility to infections
  • fever
  • night sweats
  • swollen lymph nodes
  • enlarged liver and / or spleen
  • Abdominal pain and loss of appetite (due to enlarged spleen and / or liver)
  • Tendency to bleed such as bleeding from the gums or nose, punctiform bleeding into the skin and mucous membrane (petechiae) and also increased bruising (hematoma)

If the cancer cells have affected other parts of the body and organs, further complaints arise. These include joint and bone pain when the bones are affected. If leukemia cells settle in the brain, this can cause headaches, visual disturbances and paralysis, among other things.

Childhood leukemia: diagnosis

Often, childhood (and others) leukemia does not cause specific symptoms in the early stages. Fatigue, easy fatigue, fever, recognizable cause and other symptoms can have countless causes. Often there are harmless diseases behind it. Especially if the symptoms last longer, parents should with their Child to doctor go.

This will be the first in the conversation medical history of the child (anamnesis). This is followed by a thorough one physical examination. Are also particularly important blood tests: Changed blood values ​​can indicate a possible leukemia. Then the doctor can do something to the child bone marrow remove (bone marrow puncture) and have it analyzed in the laboratory. This is how leukemia can be reliably demonstrated in children. At the same time, the examination can show which type of cancer is present.

Further examinations are then often necessary. For example, they are used to determine whether the cancer has already affected other parts of the body. You can read more about the various diagnostic steps under Leukemia: Examinations and Diagnosis.

Read more about the investigations

Find out here which examinations can be useful for this disease:

Children’s leukemia: treatment

How to treat leukemia in children (and others) in detail depends on several factors. The most important thing is what type of leukemia it is and how advanced it is. Age too and the The general condition of the patient and any concomitant diseases influence the therapy plan.

In principle, leukemia is very often chemotherapy treated. Sometimes there is one radiotherapy of the skull makes sense. This can often prevent or treat cancer of the brain. In some cases, leukemia in children with a stem cell treated. This is particularly the case when chemotherapy and radiation therapy are not sufficiently effective.

You can read more about the individual therapies under Leukemia: Treatment.

Read more about the therapies

Read more about therapies that can help here:

Children’s leukemia: prognosis

The chances of survival for children with cancer have increased significantly in recent decades. The outlook is particularly good for the most common form of leukemia in children, i.e. acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL): around 90 percent of small patients survive the disease for a long time (15 years and more).

The prognosis of an acute myeloid is somewhat worse Leukemia in children: The proportion of long-term survivors here is around 73 percent.


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