Understanding Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia: A Patient’s Guide 


Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) is a type of childhood leukemia. It is cancer of the blood and bone marrow that affects the white blood cells (lymphocytes). It occurs when the bone marrow produces too many immature white blood cells, which are unable to fight off infections. As the number of white blood cells grows, they can crowd out other healthy cells in the bone marrow and stop it from making normal blood cells. It is the most common type of cancer in children. 

Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia Symptoms 

The signs of ALL include, 

– Fatigue & weakness 

– Paleness 

– Shortness of breath 

– Frequent infections 

– Fever 

– Pain in the bones or joints 

– Swollen lymph nodes 

– Unexplained weight loss 

– Frequent nosebleeds  

– Bleeding from the gums 

– Frequent infections 

Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia Causes  

The exact cause of acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) is unknown.  

Risk factors include:  

– Exposure to radiation 

– Certain genetic conditions  

– Certain medications 

Diagnosis of Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia 

Physical Examination: A physical examination will be performed to check for signs and symptoms of ALL, such as fatigue, weight loss, enlarged lymph nodes, or an enlarged spleen. 

  • Blood tests: A complete blood count (CBC) and a differential white blood cell count are used to assess abnormal amounts of white blood cells in the body. 
  • Imaging tests: Imaging tests, such as a chest X-ray or computerized tomography (CT) scan, may be used to look for enlarged organs or lymph nodes and to check for signs of infection or other abnormalities. 
  • A lumbar puncture test (Spinal tap): This procedure is used to collect a sample of spinal fluid (the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord). The sample is tested to see whether cancer cells have spread to the spinal fluid. 
  • Bone marrow tests: A bone marrow aspiration and biopsy are used to confirm the diagnosis of ALL. In this procedure, bone marrow is removed from the hip bone and analyzed for the presence of cancerous white blood cells.  

Treatment of Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia 

  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is the most common treatment for ALL. It is a combination of drugs used to kill cancer cells and stop them from growing. Chemotherapy drugs are usually taken through an IV or given as pills. 
  • Radiation therapy: It uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells. It is usually used to treat ALL in the brain or spinal cord. 
  • Bone marrow transplant: A procedure in which doctors replace damaged bone marrow with healthy bone marrow. This procedure can be used to treat some types of ALL. 
  • Targeted therapy: It uses drugs or other substances to target and destroy cancer cells. Targeted therapy can be used to treat some types of ALL. 
  • Immunotherapy: It uses the body’s own immune system to fight cancer. This type of treatment can be used to treat some types of ALL. 

Lifestyle Changes to Deal with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia 

  • Maintain a healthy diet: Maintaining a balanced diet can help maintain a healthy weight and provide the body with essential vitamins and minerals. 
  • Avoid exposure to toxins: Exposure to certain toxins can increase the risk of developing certain types of leukemia. 
  • Stay up to date on vaccinations: Vaccinations help protect against certain types of infections, which can be damaging to people with leukemia. 

Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia: When to See a Doctor? 

  • Make an appointment with a doctor if you notice persistent signs and symptoms that are concerning. 
  • Many symptoms of acute lymphocytic leukemia mimic those of the flu.  
  • However, flu signs and symptoms eventually improve. If signs and symptoms do not improve as expected, make an appointment with your doctor.