Signs of Leukemia in Children
Nearly 60 percent of cancer experienced by children is blood cancer or leukemia. Unfortunately, when taken to the hospital mostly they are already in the acute stage. Parents should know the characteristics of leukemia in children.
Leukemia are most common in children aged 2-6 years. But this cancer can occur in all age groups with the largest group is children and elders over the age of 50 years.
Leukemia is a condition where there are more white blood cells than the red blood cells but the white blood cells are abnormal. Leukemia occurs because the process of blood cell formation is abnormal.
Blood stem cells fail to form and do not mature in time. As a result two types of white blood cells have excessive numbers, which are the myeloid cells and limphoid.
If the amount of abnormal cells gets larger, then the function of white blood cells that had been assigned to protect and fight infection, transforms into malignant cells that cause symptoms that deviate.
The cause of leukemia until now is not known for sure. But the alleged extraneous factors such as radiation and toxic chemicals (benzene) can be an indication of the cause of leukemia.
Other factors that generally cause leukemia are family history, genetic factors that damage the chromosomes, age, ethnicity and Virus-1 (HTLV-1). However, in some cases the exact cause is sometimes unknown.
Some leukemia in children are annual while some are acute (chronic). If not promptly treated, acute leukemia can become fatal within several months.
Unlike acute leukemia, chronic leukemia are more experienced by adults and the growth can be 10 years slower.
Here are signs of leukemia in children, according to mayoclinic:
1. Fever and susceptible to infections
Because the white blood cells are abnormal, the white blood cells could not fight the germs that enter. White blood cells which are supposed to protect, does not work. As a result, children become vulnerable to infections and often catch fevers.
Fever and infection is an early sign of leukemia. It is not easy to distinguish with other flu-like fevers. But the fever in leukemia is usually more than 38 degrees Celsius, which lasts several days and it often occur.
Anemia occurs because the body lacks blood cells. Children with leukemia commonly suffer from anemia characterized by pallor, no power or weakness, easily fatigued, and shortness of breath.
3. Bone pain
Bone pain is not due to injuries or bruises. Bone pain in children with leukemia usually gets worse over time because of accumulation of abnormal white blood cells.
4. Swollen glands
Swollen lymph nodes is one of the early symptoms which are often observed in children with leukemia. Swollen glands can be seen on the chest, neck groin and armpit. Lymph nodes can swell due to accumulation of white blood cells which are abnormal.
The difference with swollen glands in other disease in children is leukemia last for several days different from the swollen caused by flu.
5. Easy bleeding and bruising
Children with leukemia easily bleeds and bruise which is a sign of low levels of blood clotting. Platelets are cells or cell fragments that help blood to clot which are produced by bone marrow. Low level of platelets in the body can lead to delay in blood clotting.
Other symptoms may include nose-bleeding, bleeding gums, difficulty in breathing, loss of appetite, low body weight, headache, enlarged liver and spleen, excessive sweating at night and the appearance of small red spots on the skin, known as petechiae.
Diagnosis of leukemia is done by physical examination, complete blood tests, CT scans, MRI, bone marrow biopsy, peripheral blood smears, and cytogenic analysis and spinal tap.
Usual cancer treatment options available for leukemia is chemotherapy, radiation therapy, bone marrow transplantation and biological therapy.