Leukemia is a broad disease that has so many types and subtypes. It affects children, teens, adults, and older adults. Leukemia sees most patients under the age of 21 and over the age of 50 but people between these ages are diagnosed with it. But, different age groups tend to see different types of leukemias. Babies, children, and teens most often are diagnosed with the acute form of the disease, such as ALL or AML. ALL is more common. However, older adults are much more likely to be diagnosed with chronic leukemias such as CLL or CML. Leukemia is more often diagnosed in males than females - especially CLL.
Leukemia is diagnosed through a CBC blood test by seeing leukemic cells on a slide. It is confirmed through a bone marrow biopsy. It's diagnosed in the hospital setting. Chronic leukemias are most often detected in a routine blood test as they are so slow to develop that most patients do not notice symptoms at the time of diagnosis. However, acute leukemias form very quickly and may be fatal within 6 weeks of not being treated.
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. We were also told that he was anemic so he was given an iron supplement. 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. He was admitted while his bloodwork was running so he could be hydrated since he refused to eat or drink. His oncologist came to talk to my wife and I and told us that his counts were way off normal, we knew he was at risk for developing a secondary cancer but didn't think it would really happen to him. His oncologist said there were some leukemic-looking cells in his CBC and that a bone marrow biopsy would confirm a diagnosis.
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, he was given another 2 strong doses of chemo due to a tumour in his liver that was removed last month and typed as a new cancer - a Hepatoblastoma. He finished his 3rd round of that several weeks ago and he's on a break between rounds right now for a little extra recovery time. He does stay in the hospital during his chemo. His chemo lasts 7 days and he usually stays for up to 2 weeks. He will also have a bone marrow transplant when a donor becomes available. The chances of relapse with AML are pretty high. Since this is his not his first time fighting cancer he is considered at a greater risk for relapse so the bone marrow transplant is the best choice for him.
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.
It's important to remember that 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 a patient can reach remission and eventually NED status. There isn't a "cure" but it's generally accepted that after 5 years post treatment the leukemia is considered "cured."
I think I'm about out of room here and I hope this helped you out some. If you have any more questions feel free to email me (email@example.com) or IM me (crazycanuckj).
My 3 year old son is a warrior who beat a Stage I FH Wilms' Tumour and Secondary Acute Myelogenous Leukemia and is still fighting hard against a Stage III Hepatoblastoma.
· 1 decade ago