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Leukaemia is a type of cancer of the blood and bone marrow. It occurs when the bone marrow makes too many white blood cells (lymphocytes), which are part of the body’s immune system to fight infections. Leukaemia cells do not function properly as white blood cells, and they do not fight infections very well. They can also crowd the bone marrow, meaning less room for healthy blood cells.

Different types of leukaemia are named after the type of stem cells that are affected (either lymphoid stem cells or myeloid stem cells), and how quickly the abnormal cells grow:

  • Acute lymphocytic leukaemia, also known as acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, affects lymphoid stem cells and grows quickly. It is the most common type of leukaemia in children, occurring mostly in younger children (aged 2–4 years).
  • Acute myeloid leukaemia affects myeloid stem cells and grows quickly. It is also called acute myelogenous leukaemia, acute myeloblastic leukaemia, acute granulocytic leukaemia or acute nonlymphocytic leukaemia.
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia affects lymphoid stem cells and usually grows slowly. It is the most common type of leukaemia in adults and is rare in children.
  • Chronic myeloid leukaemia affects myeloid stem cells and grows slowly. It is rare in children, but tends to occur more often in teenagers than in younger children.

Risk factors

A risk factor is anything that increases a person’s chance of developing a certain condition or disease, such as cancer. In adults, lifestyle and environmental...

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Symptoms of leukaemia may include:

  • fever
  • night sweats
  • bruising or bleeding easily
  • flat, pinpoint red spots under the skin (called petechiae), caused by bleeding
  • ...
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Your child will have a number of tests to investigate their symptoms and confirm a diagnosis of leukaemia, including:

  • medical history and physical examination
  • ...
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Treatment and care of children with cancer is usually provided by a team of health professionals called a multidisciplinary team. Members of this team are...

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Diagnosis of cancer in a child is a very difficult time for the child, their family and their friends. You might feel overwhelmed, scared, anxious...

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Chance of cure

Many children with cancer are cured of the disease. Children’s bodies have great capacity for healing. Also, huge improvements have been made in the treatment...

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Clinical trials

Researchers are trialling new ways to diagnose and treat different types of cancer. Your child may be invited to be part of a clinical trial...

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More information

For more information about leukaemia, see:

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published: Sunday, 23 August, 2015