Cancer is a pretty broad term, there are so many different types of cancer a person can possess. The type that I decided to talk about today is childhood leukemia. Leukemia is cancer of the blood cells, white blood cells (WBC) are commonly the ones that are cancerous. The cancer attacks the white blood cells which are meant to fight infections off in the body. The type of leukemia a child can possess all depends on certain factors. Some leukemia cancers are considered acute, meaning the cancer moves at a very rapid pace While others are known to be more chronic, which means the cancer spreads at a much slower pace throughout the body. Other types of this cancer begin in other cells. Childhood leukemia is known to be one of the most common types of cancer in children. While cancer is a very horrible sickness to go through, there is still hope for the child that may be diagnosed with leukemia. According to experts, “The good news is that about 90 percent of children diagnosed with leukemia can be cured, thanks to advances in the past several decades” (‘Leukemia in Children’). So much time and effort has been put into understanding childhood leukemia, and while there is a high percentage of surviving this cancer. The pain it puts a child through is unfair.
There are few known risk factors that could potentially increase the chances of childhood leukemia. Some of those include genetic syndromes, inherited immune system problems, or even having a sibling that already has leukemia. Knowing that your child has leukemia can be a hard thing to grasp, some symptoms that a parent might want to look out for include fatigue, high fevers, bone pain, or even bleeding. When it comes to childhood leukemia, it can be very hard for a parent to come to terms with it. Having the pediatric oncologist explain the symptoms to look out for and possible risk factors that could potentially lead to cancer is important. The news of leukemia is a horrifying thing to find out, but with the support of the doctors and nurses the child has an even better chance of making it through. Making sure the parents understand just how serious the situation is important, because treatment needs to be started as soon as possible to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the child at stake. There are several genes that are affected during the journey of leukemia. “In 2008, one of the first genes linked to leukemia - RUNX1 - was identified and became available for genetic testing in 2008. People who inherit changes in the RUNX1 gene can face a higher risk of acute myeloid leukemia (AML)” (MD Anderson Cancer Center and Staff). Knowing one of the genes that a person may need to inherit leukemia is important and could potentially help doctors detect the cancer before it gets too serious.
Cancer can be a very scary and painful thing to endure, but doctors and experts have found ways to help treat patients that have come in contact with childhood leukemia. There are several ways a child can be treated for leukemia. Doctors that focus on childhood cancers are called pediatric oncologists, and they are the ones that will run tests on the child, and then alert the parents of the options they can choose from. While there are several options to choose from, the main treatment for most childhood leukemias is chemotherapy. For some children with higher risk leukemias, high-dose chemotherapy may be given along with a stem cell transplant (‘Treating Childhood Leukemia’). Chemotherapy is a common treatment used throughout all cancer patients, the idea of it is to pump a large amount of drugs into the body to eventually kill the cancer inside. Though there are definitely results from patients going through chemo, it is also very time consuming and brutal on the person receiving it. Receiving chemotherapy has shown many positive results, many children with leukemia that go through chemotherapy have gone into remission. Remission is when cancer is kind of like ‘sleeping’ the cancer is gone from the body, but there is still a chance the cancer could come back sometime in the future. If the leukemia is not treated it could end up very badly, the child could end up in constant pain leading to being admitted into the hospital, or even worse it could lead to death. There is always room for more research and improvement on all types of cancer, finding out more about childhood leukemia could increase the survival rate even more. Experts have been trying to find new ways to treat childhood leukemia and develop an even deeper understanding of what is happening to the body when receiving these treatments. According to the Pediatric Immunotherapy Discovery and Development Network, they are working to discover and characterize new targets for immunotherapies, design experimental models to test the effectiveness of pediatric immunotherapies, develop new immunotherapy treatments, and improve the understanding of tumor immunity in pediatric cancer patient. Experimenting new ways to treat leukemia may not only help children with leukemia but also other types of cancer that may take a toll on the human body.
There was no underlying reason for why I decided to research childhood leukemia. I feel like a part of me chose this cancer because in the future I want to work with children, so understanding types of diseases and disorders that could affect a child's life is important to me and could potentially help me in my future career. Children need so much more support, they’re young and innocent. They don’t understand what is going on or the facts portrayed to them. Having a good support system is important because children need to know that there is going to be someone there for them when they need it. What I found most interesting about this topic is that there is a high chance that the children diagnosed with leukemia may be cured. Childhood leukemia is such a serious topic, it takes a huge toll on the child with the cancer and the family of the child. Educating myself as much as possible on childhood leukemia could help me in the future, being able to notice signs and symptoms that a child may have leukemia may save a child's life.