Leukemia is cancer of the white blood cells. The body can fight the infection with the help of this cell. The blood cells are formed in your bone marrow. Abnormal white blood cells are produced by the bone marrow in leukemia. These cells make it hard for blood to do its work by crowding out the healthy blood cells. In acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), also called acute lymphoblastic leukemia, there are many of specific types of white blood cells called lymphoblasts or lymphocytes. It is the most common type of cancer in children.

Causes

It occurs when a bone marrow cell develops errors in its DNA. When a healthy cell would normally stop dividing and die the errors tell the cell to continue growing and dividing. The blood cell production thus becomes abnormal. The bone marrow generates immature cells that develop into leukemic white blood cells called lymphoblasts. These abnormal cells cannot function properly, and they thus build up and crowd out healthy cells. It's not clear what causes the DNA mutations that can lead to ALL. But doctors have found that most cases of acute lymphocytic leukemia aren't inherited.

Symptoms of ALL include:

• Weakness or feeling tired

• Fever

• Easy bruising or bleeding

• Bleeding under the skin

• Shortness of breath

• Weight loss or loss of appetite

• Pain in the bones or stomach

• A feeling of fullness or pain below the ribs

• Painless lumps in the groin, underarm, neck, or stomach

Risk factors

• Previous cancer treatment. Children and adults who've had certain types of chemotherapy and radiation therapy for other kinds of cancer may have an increased risk of developing acute lymphocytic leukemia.

• Exposure to radiation. People exposed to very high levels of radiation, have an increased risk of developing acute lymphocytic leukemia.

• Genetic disorders. Certain genetic disorders, like Down syndrome, are associated with an increased risk of ALL.

• Having a brother or sister with ALL. People with ALL have who have a sibling, including a twin, have an increased risk of it.

• Certain chemical exposures. The risk of ALL may be increased by exposure to certain chemotherapy drugs and certain chemicals, which includes benzene.

Treatments and drugs

Depending on your situation, the phases of treatment for ALL can span two to three years. Tests that examine the blood and bone marrow diagnose ALL. In general, treatment for acute lymphocytic leukemia falls into separate phases:

• Induction therapy. The purpose of the first phase of treatment is to kill most of the leukemia cells in the blood and bone marrow and to restore normal blood cell production.

• Consolidation therapy. Also called post-remission therapy, this phase of treatment is intended at destroying any remaining leukemia in the body, such as in the spinal cord or brain.

• Maintenance therapy. The third phase of treatment prevents leukemia cells from regrowing. The treatments used in this stage are given at much lower doses over a long period of time.

• Preventive treatment to the spinal cord. People with ALL may also receive treatment to kill leukemia cells located in the central nervous system during each phase of therapy. In this type chemotherapy drugs are often injected directly into the fluid that covers the spinal cord.

Treatments include stem cell transplants, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and targeted immune therapy. You need additional treatment to make sure that it does not come back once the leukemia is in remission.

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