What are the early symptoms of leukemia in children?

Many symptoms of leukemia in children are also symptoms of common, less serious childhood illnesses. Leukemia can be chronic, and the symptoms may develop slowly, or it can be acute, and the symptoms may appear very quickly.

Childhood leukemia also affects teens. It is the most common type of cancer in children under the age of 15, according to the National Cancer Institute in the United States. Around 4,000 children in the country are affected by leukemia each year.

Leukemia affects the blood cells. It causes white blood cells to develop in a person’s bone marrow. These then travel through the bloodstream and suppress the production of healthy blood cells.

A diagnosis of leukemia can be frightening, but survival rates continue to improve.

Common symptoms of childhood leukemia

If a child has any of the following symptoms, and a parent or caregiver suspects leukemia, it is essential to contact a doctor.

1. Anemia

Anemia occurs when the body has a shortage of red blood cells.

Red blood cells are responsible for carrying oxygen around the body, and if someone is not producing enough, they may experience:

  • fatigue
  • weakness
  • dizziness
  • breathlessness
  • headaches
  • pale skin
  • feeling unusually cold

2. Frequent infections

Children with leukemia have a high white blood cell counts, but most of these cells are not functioning correctly. This is because abnormal cells are replacing healthy white blood cells.

White blood cells help to protect the body and fight off infections.

Recurrent and persistent infections can indicate that a child does not have enough healthy white blood cells.

3. Bruising and bleeding

If a child bruises easily, experiences severe nosebleeds, or bleeds from the gums, this can point to leukemia.

A child with this type of cancer will have a lack of platelets that help to prevent bleeding.

4. Bone or joint pain

If a child seems to be in pain and complains that their bones or joints are sore or achy, this can indicate childhood leukemia.

When leukemia develops, the abnormal cells can collect inside joints or close to the surface of the bones.

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