What is Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL)?
Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) affects the blood & bone marrow. It progresses rapidly & aggressively & immediate treatment is required. In ALL, large number of immature white blood cells are produced & released. These cells are known as blast cells. As these blast increases, there is decrease in red blood cells & platelet cells.
Signs & symptoms of ALL
The commons signs & symptoms of acute lymphoblastic leukemia are:
- Recurrent infections
- Pain in the bones & joints.
- Swelling in the lymph nodes.
- Pain in the abdomen.
- Skin rash, purple in color.
- Blurred vision.
- Unusual & frequent bleeding
- Seizures (if ALL has spread to the central nervous system).
Causes & risk factors of ALL
- Genetic syndromes like Down’s syndrome are risk factors of acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
- Exposure to radiation & benzene.
- Weakened immune system due to AIDS.
Diagnosis of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia
The following diagnostic tests are done Acute Lympholastic Leukemia:
- Blood Tests. Blood tests may show presence of WBCs, less RBCs and plateletes. Blood tests also show presence of immature cells (Blast cells) in Bone Marrow.
- Bone Marrow Test. Bone Marrow is collected by needle from the hip bone or breast bone. The Bone Marrow test gives more details on the features of the cancers cells and helps the oncologist or hematologist in developing treatment plan.
- Imaging Tests. Imaging tests like CT Scan, X-ray etc are used to determine spread of the disease.
- PET Scan. PET Scan uses a mild radioactive material to see places where cells are most active. PET Scan helps understand the metastasis of disease.
Treatment of acute lymphoblastic leukemia
The treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia involves the following:
Chemotherapy is the use of anti-cancer drug that helps to slow or stop the growth of rapidly dividing cells that cause cancer. It prevents the growth of rapidly dividing cells by killing the dividing cells.
Despite its side effects, chemo is still the most widely used cancer treatment option. Unlike radiation and surgery which treats cancer cells at particular locations, chemotherapy drugs can kill cancer cells that have metastated (spread) to different organs in the body (Read more on: Chemotherapy)
Targeted Drug Therapy
Targeted therapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses cancer drugs. However, it is different from traditional chemotherapy, which also uses drugs to kill cancer cells. In Targeted therapy, the cancer’s specific genes, proteins, or the tissue environment that contributes to cancer growth and survival are targeted. Targeted therapy is generally used with chemotherapy and other interventions (Read more on: Targeted Drug Therapy)
Radiation Therapy is a kind of cancer treatment that uses high doses of radiation beams to kill cancer cells to shrink the tumors. Radiation kills the cancer cells by destroying the DNA. Cancer cells with damaged DNA fail to multiply and die. They are then removed by the body’s mechanism (Read more on: Radiation Therapy)
Bone Marrow Transplant
A Bone Marrow Transplant, also called Stem Cell Transplant is a medical procedure recommendedin case of bone marrow damage. The main aim of the medical procedure is to replace a part of the bone marrow that has been destroyed due to some disease, infection, or due to chemotherapy. The replacement of the blood stem cells promotes the growth of new blood cells and tissues around the bone marrow which in turn promotes prompt recovery of the damaged area. This is primarily why this procedure is also known as the Stem Cell Transplant (Read more on: Bone Marrow Transplant)