Leukemia is the most common form of childhood cancer and is commonly referred to as bone marrow or blood cancer. This type of condition is most often seen in children between the ages of two and six, but is also known to develop in babies and young infants. Leukemia symptoms are similar no matter the age of the patient.
Leukemia causes the bone marrow and other blood producing organs of the body to produce excessive amounts of white blood cells, these in turn suppress the normal red blood cell production which may then cause anemia and impaired immune system function.
Frequent, recurring infections
An infant or young child with repeated and persistent infections may be exhibiting leukemia symptoms – this is because the impaired immune system will be unable to defend against infections in the normal way. Infection in young children very often produces fever, extreme fatigue, restlessness and periods of unexplained and persistent crying.
Children with leukemia are often extremely tired – even when doing the normal every day things that have previously caused them no problems. Any child who suddenly appears to be unusually tired should be referred to a medical practitioner.
Difficulty breathing is another leukemia symptom resulting from the development of a tumor within the thymus gland. The thymus gland produces the T lymphocyte immune cell and is located just beneath the breastbone, near the throat. An infant, or child, with leukemia may suffer with persistent coughing and wheezing which should be referred to your medical practitioner.
This type of tumor may also affect the major blood vessels leading to and from the heart.
Sick children and infants frequently experience loss of appetite – those with leukemia are no exception. Disinterest in food or feeding meaning insufficient nutrition will in turn cause a failure to thrive and weight loss. This naturally occurring weight loss is a frequent leukemia symptom in children and infants.
Swollen lymph nodes
The lymph nodes filter the blood and are part of the immune system; these nodes are located in the neck, armpits, groin and chest. In patients with leukemia the abnormal cancer cells in the blood may collect in the lymph nodes causing the classic leukemia symptom of swollen lymph nodes.
Frequent, often unexplained, bruising
Because leukemia is a cancer of the blood one of the most often noticed leukemia symptoms is that of bruising. This is due to the reduced levels of the platelets necessary for normally clotting of the blood. Children and infants with leukemia frequently bruise very easily – something as simple as holding the child or changing a diaper may result in bruising. This reduction in platelets may also lead to other types of bleeding problems – such as prolonged bleeding following an accident, fall or nosebleed.
Anemia is the result of an insufficient supply of oxygenated blood – this may cause leukemia patients to appear tired, pale, restless and weaker than normal.
Childhood leukemia often causes considerable pain in the joints and bones that may even cause a limp to develop.
As leukemia develops
As leukemia progresses it may, in due course, affect the brain resulting in persistent headaches, seizures, difficulties with balance and vision disorders.