Leukaemia is the most common form of blood cancer in children. It is a blood cancer that affects the white blood cells. When someone develops leukaemia, control of blood cell production is broken down. The bone marrow – in the middle of our bones where all our blood cells are made, makes lots of abnormal white cells – the leukaemic cells. These cells don’t mature properly and interfere with the normal function of the bone marrow in producing blood cells.
There are many different ways in which someone with acute leukaemia may be diagnosed.
There are no specific symptoms or signs for leukaemia and it may be confused with other common illnesses such as viral infections.
Symptoms usually develop quickly over a matter of days or weeks.
Often the symptoms and signs of leukaemia are non specific such as tiredness and lethargy.
The most common symptoms are tiredness and shortness of breath due to anaemia; frequent infections due to a low white cell count and bruising or bleeding due to a low platelet count.
Children may also complain of bone pain or may have enlarged lymph nodes (glands).
More rarely patients present with headaches, swollen gums or skin lumps.
If your child has any or these symptoms or signs and you are concerned, please contact your doctor.