Leukaemias

Leukaemia is cancer of the white blood cells. There are two forms of adolescent leukaemia.

The bone marrow and other blood forming organs produce increased numbers of abnormal white blood cells. The rapid growth of abnormal cells suppresses the production of normal blood cells.

Types of leukaemias:

Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL)

ALL increases the number of white blood cells called lymphocytes.

Incidence

ALL is the most common form of leukaemia that accounts for 30% of childhood cancers, and 6% of adolesent cancers. Usually occurs between 2-8 years old and declines steadily with age.

Treatment

A 2-3 year treatment plan that includes several phases of chemotherapy and occasionally radiotherapy to the brain. For high risk patients or a reoccurance, a bone marrow transplantation may be necessary.

Follow up

75-80% of children with ALL survive, however survival rates are poorer for adolescents and young adults at 51%. If there is a reoccurrence it normally occurs within the first three years after treatment. Long term side effects are uncommon.

Acute myeloid leukaemia (AML)

With AML there is an increased number of abnormal white blood cells, called myeloid cells.

Incidence

Almost as common as ALL in adolescents, but usually occurs in people ages 20 to 29.

Treatment

AML can be more difficult to treat. A 6 month treatment plan of chemotherapyis common.Two or three drugs are used in each course of treatment lasting from five to 10 days. A total of four or five courses of chemotherapy are given on a monthly basis. Depending on the success of chemotherapy, a BMT may be necessary.

Follow up

Because AML is harder to treat than ALL, survival rates are even lower. 50% of childhood AML patients and 42% of adolescent AML patients survive. If there is a reoccurrence it normally occurs within the first three years after treatment.