It depends on what type of leukemia a patient has. Some are chronic leukemias that may go on for years before diagnosis, and others are acute leukemias that must be diagnosed immediately and treated within the first 48 hours. Without treatment AML or ALL may be fatal within 6 weeks, but again, it's an individual prognosis. The most common chronic leukemia are CLL and less common CML. Both chronic leukemias are most common in older adults and rare in children. Children, more often, are diagnosed with an acute leukemia - most commonly ALL. AML is more rare than ALL and also found mostly in people over the age of 50.
I have met many children with ALL over the last 2 1/2 years but I know more about AML - the two are closely related. My 2 1/2 year old son E was diagnosed with a Wilms' Tumour as a newborn, won his battle, and was recently diagnosed with Secondary Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML). AML is related to ALL but is still quite different. His cancer is most likely a secondary cancer caused by the chemotherapy his first time when he fought Wilms. E somehow passed his screenings he has every 3 months back in October but in the end of November we started to notice he wasn't quite himself, and he was diagnosed December 19th.
There are lots of symptoms of leukemia but each individual is different. Some display some symptoms while others display other ones. There's no actual tumour as in other cancers but leukemia is a cancer of the cells that create blood cells. E had a cold in November that he just couldn't kick. We took him to the doctor and he was given an antibiotic. He got a little better but as soon as he finished the antibiotic he got sick again. He usually has a couple bruises here and there since he is a 2 year old. His walking was greatly affected from one of the drugs in his first chemo cocktail so he trips and falls pretty often. But the bruising he had was more than usual - he bruised at the slightest bump. That's when we really knew something was wrong and took him to the doctor again. Once he was diagnosed we found out that his spleen and liver were enlarged - also symptoms of leukemia. Due to the extent of enlargement of his spleen, he had it removed after a round of chemotherapy. So far he has had 3 strong doses of induction chemo and 3 consolidation rounds, and he's labeled as being in remission! He still has 3-5 rounds of consolidation chemo left just to make sure all of the cancerous cells are gone. He will also have a bone marrow transplant when a donor becomes available.
He had some joint pain at the time of diagnosis. I have to say I didn't really think too much of the joint pain because he doesn't walk well due to one of the previous chemotherapy drugs he had - Vincristine. Because of Vincristine his leg muscles are weaker and he walks with "slapfoot" or "dropfoot" and he trips and falls fairly often. I figured his joint pain was because of falling but since his diagnosis I now see that it was probably because of the leukemia. On treatment he has had a significant amount of bone and joint pain, especially early on. When it's clear that he is in pain, he does get pain meds to help. I think the painkillers do help him but I think even then he does have some pain but duller than without painkillers.
A leukemia diagnosis is absolutely not a death sentence. It's treatable but you have to keep in mind that it does take lives. I know many children and adults that have gone on to live completely normal lives after getting their No Evidence of Disease (NED) status. Sometimes a patient does relapse but it is absolutely possible that he or she can reach remission and eventually NED status.
I hope this helped you out some. If you have any more questions feel free to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or IM me (crazycanuckj).
My 2 year old son is a warrior who beat a Wilms' Tumour and is currently battling Secondary Acute Myelogenous Leukemia.
· 1 decade ago