Acute lymphoblastic leukemia: Causes and treatments

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia is a malignant blood cancer. It is the most common childhood cancer.

It is also known as ALL, acute lymphocytic leukemia, or B-Cell Acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

ALL accounts for 80 percent of childhood leukemias. It is the only leukemia more common in children under 5 years than in adults. It often affects children aged 2 to 3 years.

In the United States (U.S.) there are about 6,500 new cases of ALL annually, or 1.7 in every 100,000 people.

The American Cancer Society estimate that 2017 will see 5,970 new ALL diagnoses and 1,440 deaths from ALL.


acute lymphocytic leukemia
Acute lymphocytic leukemia is the most common childhood cancer.

Symptoms of ALL usually start slowly and then escalate in severity as the number of blast cells in the blood rises.

In people with ALL, the blood and bone marrow have large numbers of early white blood cells, or lymphocytes, which become leukemia cells.

Signs and symptoms may include:

excessive sweating


frequent unexplained bleeding, such as nosebleeds or bleeding gums

high fever

painful joints and/or bones


several infections over a short period

swollen glands (lymph nodes)

swollen liver

swollen spleen

skin bruises easily

skin is paler than it should be

unexplained weight loss

The affected cells can spread into the central nervous system (CNS), affecting the brain and spinal cord. If this happens, the patient may have neurological symptoms, such as dizziness, vomiting, blurred vision, fits (seizures), and headaches.

[Acute lymphoblastic leukemia cells]
ALL occurs when there are too many immature blast cells in the blood.

Leukemia can be acute or chronic.

Chronic leukemia develops slowly, and it allows more mature, useful cells to be made, but acute leukemia progresses rapidly.

Acute leukemia crowds out the good cells more rapidly than chronic leukemia. There is a speedy accumulation of immature, useless cells in the marrow and blood.

These are called B-lymphocytes and T-lymphocytes, or B-Cells and T-Cells.

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