Eastern Mediterranean University (EMU) Dr. Fazıl Küçük Medicine Faculty academic staff member and Marmara University Medicine Faculty Department of Pediatrics and Department of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology Chair Prof. Dr. Gülnur Tokuç released a statement regarding 2-8 November Children with Leukemia Week. The statement on Childhood Leukemia reads as follows:
Leukemia is a type of cancer where bone marrow cells, especially abnormal white blood cells divide uncontrollably. The high amount of abnormal cells take the place of normal bone marrow cells. Therefore the number of platelets that play a part in blood clotting and normal white blood cells that are needed for defense decrease in the bone marrow. This leads to intensive bleeding of patients, easy infection and anemia.
Childhood leukemia is more common than other types of cancer. Both genetic and environmental factors are thought to play an important part in leukemia.
Acute Leukemia: There is a constant increase in blood cells with cancer and their number surpasses the amount of healthy-normal blood cells. These abnormal cells can spread to other organs. The classification of acute leukemia is based on the types of abnormal cells that appear.
Acute Lymphoid Leukemia (ALL): In acute leukemia, the bone marrow cells cannot mature properly into lymphocytes. Immature leukemia cells called lymphoblasts continue to reproduce and build up. The number of lymphoblasts increase accumulating at lymph nodes and causing swelling. ALL is the most common type of childhood leukemia and makes up approximately 80 percent of leukemia cases in those under the age of 15. It is sometimes seen in adults but very rare in those over the age of 50.
Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML): It emerges when myoblast cells that need to turn into normal blood cells increase. It makes up 50 percent of leukemia cases in adolescence and people in their 20s as well as 20 percent of leukemia cases in adults.
Chronic Leukemia: It is characterized by the excess production of blood cells that appear to be mature but cannot do what normal blood cells do. It spreads slowly and has two main subcategories:
Chronic Lymphoid Leukemia (CLL): CLL is a type of cancer in which the bone marrow makes too many lymphocytes that are abnormal because they haven’t fully matured and unlike normal lymphocytes cannot protect our body against infection. With CLL, cancer cells are found in the bone marrow, blood and adenoids. Swelling occurs in the lymph nodes. CLL is responsible of 30 percent of all leukemia cases. It is rare under the age of 30 but its frequency increases with age and is most common between 60 and 70.
Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML): CML which makes up 20-30 per cent of leukemia in adults is seen between the ages 25-60. It arises with the uncontrollable rise of myeloid cells that appear mature but have a loss of function.
Leukemia is identified by blood smears and examples taken from bone marrow.
Symptoms of Leukemia:
• Fatigue, exhaustion
• Colds and similar complaints
• Loss of appetite and weight
• Frequent infection
• Bruising and small red-purple spots on skin
• Swelling lymph nodes
• Bleeding in the nose and gums
• Pain in the bone or joints
Chemotherapy is the most common treatment method of childhood leukemia. Stem cell transplantation may be needed in certain cases such as when there is no response to treatment or when leukemia is recurring. Stem cells are undifferentiated blood cells collected from the donor’s bone marrow. They are either taken from the patient before his/her treatment or from somebody else with tissue compatibility. Stem cells can also be collected from the umbilical cord or placenta of a new-born and used in umbilical cord blood transfusion. The collected cells are used to replace the cancer cells destroyed by chemotherapy. The aim is to create bone marrow that will produce healthy and mature blood cells.