Leukaemia - The Facts

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Originally published in March-April 2004 icon


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Currently the number one child cancer in the USA.


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Each year some 500 children are affected by leukaemia - the most common form of childhood cancer. Massive numbers of white blood cells (lymphocytes) take over the bone marrow where normal blood cells are produced, and spill out into the bloodstream.


3:

Researchers now suspect that leukaemia has no single cause but develops due to a double, or triple ’whammy’ factor. Some babies develop a genetic propensity in the womb, and it’s suspected that leukaemia may then develop as a rare response to infection.


Open quotesMost Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia patients need drug treatment onlyClose quotes


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Forty years ago a leukaemia diagnosis almost always proved fatal, but now more than seven out of ten children recover.


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Symptoms include fatigue, bruising, unexplained fever, persistent infections, and bleeding from gums or gut.


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Eighty five per cent of affected children have Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL) which affects the lymphocytes.


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More boys than girls get ALL and the peak age for diagnosis is between two and four.


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Only 15 per cent of young patients have Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML) which affects the white cells, except lymphocytes, less often the red cells and platelets.


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Most ALL patients need drug treatment only.


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AML requires rapid treatment to be most effective, but chemotherapy, albeit aggressive, is now also increasingly successful. Bone marrow (also known as stem cell) transplantation is primarily used to treat the 20-25 per cent of AML children who have subsequently relapsed. Generally, children who go into early remission have a higher ultimate cure rate.

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