Childhood Leukemia

As part of my final project for the semester, my group and I will be researching childhood leukemia. I wanted to blog about it tonight because after long hours of researching, I became interested in learning  everything and anything about leukemia.

leukemia

Leukemia is a type of cancer in the blood or bone marrow where there is an abnormal increase in the production of immature white blood cells. Because of the high production of immature white blood cells, blood platelets are drastically reduced. Blood platelets are responsible for clotting blood, but because there is a lack of blood platelets, children will easily bruise and bleed excessively. There are many types of leukemia, including Acute lymphoblastic leukemia, Acute myelogenous leukemia and chronic lymphocytic leukemia. The one that is the most important to me is acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) because it is the most common in young children.

Although it may seem devastating to have ALL, it can actually be treated via chemotherapy and radiotherapy. According to studies, 85% of children diagnosed with leukemia survive after treatment. Treatment for ALL is divided into phases. The first phase is induction chemotherapy, where children will start out with three drugs for the first month that will bring remission of bone marrow: prednisone, L-asparaginase, and vincristine. The next phase is consolidation therapy, where the elimination of any leukemia cells occurs by taking a high-dose, multi-drug treatment for a few months. The next phase is  CNS prophylaxis, where the spreading of cancer to the brain and central nervous system is prevented. This is done by radiation of the head or medication directly to the spine. Lastly, the last phase is the maintenance chemotherapy, which is to prevent the disease from occurring again once the patient has acheived remission.

As mentioned before, acute lymphoblastic leukemia is the most common form of cancer to occur in children. Boys are also more likely than girls to develop leukemia and Caucasian Americans are also more likely than African Americans to develop leukemia. Although it is known that boys and caucasian americans are more likely to develop leukemia, it is unknown as to the reason why. There is no one reason that causes leukemia, nor is there a cause that occurs in most leukemia cases. What is known, though, is that leukemia results from mutations in DNA.

Leukemia, like all cancers, can affect anyone at any age. It is sad to know how many people have been diagnosed and have died from this awful disease. Hopefully in the near future, someone will find the cure to all cancers and no one will have to suffer again.