This form of cancer is one of the most curable types and has a high rate of survival with the right treatment protocol at the right phase of its growth and spread. On the other hand, it can also progress rather quickly if not nipped in the bud. ALL is a type of cancer that starts from the early version of white blood cells (WBCs) called lymphocytes in the bone marrow. The bone marrow is the soft inner fleshy tissues of our bones where new blood cells are manufactured. When there is an overproduction of immature WBCs, these cells crowd the bone marrow and smother it, hence preventing it from making normal blood cells that help us survive infections and be healthy.
ALL is also one of the most common cancers that afflict children.
The symptoms in those suffering from ALL may not reveal themselves so visibly. However, most of them manifest as random signs of illness. Only a thorough blood test can diagnose ALL.
However, some of the common symptoms include:
Dizziness or feeling lightheaded
Fever and recurrent episodes of infections
Shortness of breath
Frequent or severe nosebleeds and bleeding gums
Swelling in the abdomen
Enlarged lymph nodes
Pain in the bones and joints
ALL can cause headaches, vomiting, seizures or blurred vision if it has affected the brain and spinal cord
Fluid build-up and breathing trouble if ALL has spread to the chest cavity
The treatment protocol for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) is divided into three different phases over a treatment period of two years. These phases include Remission Induction, Consolidation Therapy, and Maintenance Therapy which takes the crucial two years.
The primary aim of the induction phase is to destroy the leukaemia cells that have multiplied and spread all over the body in the blood stream. Chemotherapy is the main line of treatment in ALL cases. The chemotherapy drugs could destroy many of your healthy bone marrow cells as well as the leukaemia cells. Chemotherapy also includes treatment with steroids. Before you start on the chemotherapy, you may be prescribed blood transfusions to replenish the damaged blood cells.
Sometimes, leukaemic cells can affect the brain or the testes in men. In these rare cases, you might have chemotherapy where the medications are released into the fluid that circulates around the spinal cord and brain. This is called intrathecal chemotherapy. You might also have radiotherapy to the brain and spinal cord.
If the leukemia still shows signs of existence in the blood, you will need more chemotherapy. In remission there is no sign of the leukaemia in your blood or bone marrow.
Following the remission induction phase, if you show no signs of leukemia, you will still need treatment to prevent the leukemia cells from coming back. This is called Consolidation therapy. This kind of treatment may include more chemotherapy, a transplant with your own stem cells harvested before the transplant plan also called an autologous transplant, and a matching donor or allogenic transplant. Bone marrow and stem cell transplants are intensive treatments.
This is the last phase of ALL treatment and is a long term therapy. This therapy helps to keep the leukemia in remission for a longer period. Maintenance therapy in ALL works on low dose chemotherapy and short courses of steroids for up to two years. It may also include more treatment to your brain and spine.
The constant follow-ups ensure your doctors are in touch with you and take your health concerns seriously.
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