Leukemia is a disease that occurs one in every 25,000 children, caused by genetic defects in the blood cell nucleus and manifested by cell immortality and proliferation. However, leukemia is no longer a terrifying disease. It is possible to completely recover from leukemia with early diagnosis and treatment. Liv Hospital Pediatric Hematology-Oncology Specialist Prof. Dr. Hilmi Apak warns parents about sudden and ongoing symptoms, and longer 10 days of fever in their children. Prof. Dr. Hilmi Apak: “Weakness, fatigue, anemia, gingival and nasal bleeding, causeless bruises on the skin without any trauma, excess menstrual bleeding and persistent fever must be noted. These symptoms may indicate leukemia”.
Generally, leukemia occurs after an infection, as a disease of the immune system. The body becomes unable to defend itself after uncontrolled growth of leukocytes and the disease disturbs the functions of other blood cells like red cells and thrombocytes. When leukemia develops in the patient, red blood cell production in the bone marrow decreases, leading to anemia. Reduced bone marrow causes thrombocytes to decrease. When platelets, which are plate-like cells that protect our body against bleeding, decrease, symptoms such as easy bleeding, bruising and fever may occur.
Beware of the symptoms
Complaints similar to leukemia symptoms can easily be seen in children of any age, so families should observe the symptoms carefully instead of panicking. Every children can have a bleeding nose or bruises on their legs. The important thing to observe is the duration of the complaints. For example, when a child has flu, they may have nasal bleeding for a few days. However, if the bleeding persists, then a doctor must be consulted. In addition, in case a child has persistent fever for more than 10 days, persistent and increased number of bruises, then a doctor should consulted. If an abnormal condition detected, if the liver is enlarged, there is gland formation in the arm pits, neck and groin area, growth in sweat glands and suspicious findings in blood count, then hematology department must be consulted.
Diagnosis and treatment
If there is leukemia suspicion, blood count and microscopic analysis must be performed. In case of a suspicion, then further examination would be performed by taking a bone marrow sample. If leukemia is detected based on the examination in a pathology laboratory, bone marrow will be subject to additional tests to determine the type of leukemia. Cortisone drugs are the main components of the treatment. If an acute leukemia responds well to cortisone treatment, then there is increased chance of high response rate for chemotherapy drugs. In leukemia, patients need to be constantly monitored and supervised by a physician, as their immune system is weakened and blood transfusion need is present. Treatment may last two years, including ambulatory treatment. Patients are closely followed up against recurrence. In case of recurrence, intense chemotherapy is applied and bone marrow transplantation is planned if necessary.
Bone marrow transplantation not a primary preference
Bone marrow transplantation is not a primary preference in leukemia. Bone marrow transplantation is decided based on the cell type in the patient, the response to the treatment and the possibility of recurrence. Initially, chemotherapy is a more effective method than bone marrow transplantation. However, if chemotherapy becomes ineffective later on, then bone marrow transplantation is considered. In bone marrow transplantation, very high doses of chemotherapy, to a point where patient’s bone marrow is completely disappeared, is applied. Then, healthy bone marrow collected from a suitable donor is transplanted to the patient under appropriate conditions. While bone marrow transplants from relatives are generally successful, similar results can also be achieved with bone marrow of other individual outside the familiy.