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Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, or ALL, occurs when the genetic material of cells in the bone marrow become damaged or changed, producing mutations that affect normal cell growth and division. The abnormal cells then replicate, causing cancer. If undetected, the cancer can spread beyond the bone marrow and move to other parts of the body.
Around 8,600 people are diagnosed with leukaemia each year in the UK. Despite being uncommon overall, acute lymphoblastic leukaemia is the most common type of cancer to affect children. Approximately one in every 2,000 children will develop it. About 85% of cases occur in children aged under 15, mostly between the ages of two and five years old.
The cause or causes of acute leukaemia are uncertain, but known risk factors include exposure to high levels of radiation, genetic disorders such as Down’s Syndrome, being obese or having a weakened immune system.
Symptoms of ALL usually begin slowly before rapidly getting severe as the number of blast cells (immature white blood cells) in your blood increases. Most of the symptoms are caused by the lack of healthy blood cells in your blood supply.
Symptoms of ALL include:
In some cases of ALL, the affected cells can spread from your bloodstream into your central nervous system. This can cause a series of neurological symptoms. If any of these symptoms apply to you, or if you have any concerns about similar symptoms, it is essential that you see your doctor at once, as your chances of recovery are much higher if your cancer is diagnosed early.
If you’re referred to CCL for diagnosis, your consultant or oncologist will advise you on which tests are relevant to your individual symptoms. There are a number of different tests for ALL, including:
At CCL, patients with ALL are treated by a specialist multidisciplinary team. This team works together to create a treatment plan to suit the individual needs of the patient. Treatment for ALL usually begins a few days after diagnosis, and is carried out in the following stages:
At CCL we provide support that caters to both the physical and emotional needs of the patient, before, during and after treatment.
We offer a wide range of services for patients, as well as their loved ones, designed to make a very difficult time as easy as possible, and to give our patients the best treatment and support possible. Our support services include counselling, group sessions and much more. You can find the full range of our support services here. We’ll be with you every step of the way.
If you have any questions about ALL or would like to book an appointment with one of our ALL specialists, complete this form online or call 020 8247 3351.