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Childhood Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia Treatment

General Information About Childhood Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia

Childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is a type of cancer in which the bone marrow makes too many immature lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell).

Childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (also called acute lymphocytic leukemia or ALL) is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow. This type of cancer usually gets worse quickly if it is not treated. It is the most common type of cancer in children.

Normally, the bone marrow makes blood stem cells (immature cells) that develop into mature blood cells over time. A blood stem cell may become a myeloid stem cell or a lymphoid stem cell.

The myeloid stem cell develops into one of three types of mature blood cells:

The lymphoid stem cell develops into a lymphoblast cell and then into one of three types of lymphocytes (white blood cells):


Blood cell development. A blood stem cell goes through several steps to become a red blood cell, platelet, or white blood cell.
Blood cell development. A blood stem cell goes through several steps to become a red blood cell, platelet, or white blood cell.

In ALL, too many stem cells develop into lymphoblasts and do not mature to become lymphocytes. These lymphoblasts are called leukemia cells. The leukemia cells do not work like normal lymphocytes and are not able to fight infection very well. Also, as the number of leukemia cells increases in the blood and bone marrow, there is less room for healthy white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. This may lead to infection, anemia, and easy bleeding.

This summary is about acute lymphoblastic leukemia. See the following PDQ summaries for information on other types of leukemia:

There are subgroups of childhood ALL.

There are different subgroups of ALL based on the following:

See the Childhood Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia Subgroups section for more information.

Family history and exposure to radiation may affect the risk of developing childhood ALL.

Anything that increases your risk of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer; not having risk factors doesn’t mean that you will not get cancer. People who think they may be at risk should discuss this with their doctor. Possible risk factors for ALL include the following:

Possible signs of childhood ALL include fever and bruising.

These and other symptoms may be caused by childhood ALL. Other conditions may cause the same symptoms. A doctor should be consulted if any of the following problems occur:

Tests that examine the blood and bone marrow are used to detect (find) and diagnose childhood ALL.

The following tests and procedures may be used:

Certain factors affect prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options.

The prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options may depend on:

If leukemia recurs (comes back) after initial treatment, the prognosis and treatment options may depend on: