Pediatric Leukemia: What are the Signs and Symptoms?

August 19, 2019

Leukemia is a type of cancer of the blood that develops in the bone marrow. The disease is the most common type of childhood cancer, and it typically presents in children between the ages of two and six. Still, the disease is rare in children; leukemia is most commonly seen in adults.   

Subtypes of pediatric leukemia include acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), which is the most common subtype; acute myelogenous leukemia (AML), which accounts for about 20% of childhood leukemias; and chronic myelogenous leukemia, which is extremely rare. Acute leukemias develop very quickly, while chronic leukemias are slow-growing.

Treatment for pediatric leukemia varies and can include chemotherapy, radiation, a stem cell transplant, or CAR T-cell therapy. Sometimes, a combination of these therapies is used. Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center provides personalized care for each patient based on their unique needs, and their experiences will vary.

Most of the signs and symptoms associated with pediatric leukemia are common, meaning that they could be a result of another underlying disease or condition. Since pediatric leukemia affects the development of healthy blood cells, many of the resulting symptoms relate to low blood cell counts.

Signs and symptoms of pediatric leukemia can include:

  • Fatigue
  • Paleness
  • Rashes
  • Bleeding
  • Limping
  • Fevers

In the video below, Andrew Place, MD, PhD, clinical director of the Pediatric Hematologic Malignancies Center at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s, talks about pediatric leukemia and what to look out for.