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Leukemia in infants is a rare, but very malignant neoplastic disease of the haematopoietic system. Infant leukemia is characterized by a significant advancement of the disease at the time of diagnosis. What are the causes and symptoms of infant leukemia? How is the treatment going?

Infant leukemiais a malignant neoplastic disease in which leukemia cells (blasts) multiply excessively, displacing properly functioning white blood cells from the body.

According to research, infants constitute 2.5-5 percent. children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and 6-14 percent. children with acute myeloid leukemia (AML).

Juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia (JMML) is diagnosed occasionally.

The last category of infantile leukemias is Transient Myeloproliferative Syndrome (TMS), which is mainly diagnosed in infants with Down's syndrome.

Leukemia in infants - causes

The reasons for the development of leukemia in infants are unknown, but a lot is known about the factors that have a significant impact on its development. They are:

Infant leukemia is a rarely diagnosed, but especially malignant, neoplastic disease of the haematopoietic system

  • ionizing radiation (studies conducted in Greece show that among infants exposed in utero to radiation in utero after the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident, the incidence of leukemia increased 2.6 times)
  • chemical carcinogens
  • viral infections
  • smoking and drinking alcohol during pregnancy (a study commissioned by the American organization Children`s Cancer Group shows that drinking alcohol by a pregnant woman increases the risk of leukemia in infants - especially AML - while cigarette smoking was not such an obvious factor)
  • Down's syndrome - in children with this genetic disease, the risk of developing leukemia is 14-30 times higher than in he althy children (with a normal karyotype - a complete set of chromosomes)

Leukemia in infants - symptoms

The most commonsymptoms of leukemia in infantsare:

The time from the onset of symptoms to diagnosis usually ranges from 5 to 14 days. The younger the baby, the more advanced it isleukemia symptoms

  • anorexic
  • anxiety alternating with apathy
  • fever
  • pallor
  • abdominal enlargement
  • hemorrhagic diathesis (minor petechiae bruises)
  • lymph nodes enlargement
  • significant enlargement of the spleen and liver enlargement (usually below the umbilical line)

In addition, the skin may develop brown-red to gray-blue lumps and / or nodules, from a few mm to a few (2-3) cm in size, which are hard and mobile. They may be the first symptom of leukemia in infants.

Leukemia in infants - diagnosis

When leukemia is suspected in infants, the following is done:

  • peripheral blood test
  • bone marrow test
  • cerebrospinal fluid examination (infants, more often than older children, are diagnosed with central nervous system disease)
  • Chest X-ray
  • ultrasonography - ultrasound and ultrasound of the abdominal cavity

During the diagnosis, the doctor should exclude other possible diseases, such as malignant histiocytosis, disseminated neuroblastoma, generalized infections.

Leukemia in infants - treatment

Three phases of chemotherapy are most commonly used:

  • induction of remission - the child is given many anti-cancer drugs to remission, i.e. the symptoms of the disease disappear
  • consolidation - that is, strengthening the remission obtained
  • treatment to maintain remission

If this is unsuccessful, the only salvation is a bone marrow transplant.

Leukemia in infants - prognosis

Despite advances in treating children with leukemia, the prognosis of infants is poor. For example, long-term survival of infants with ALL is achieved in 20-40 percent. patients.


Pediatric oncology and hematology , under. ed. Chybicka A., Sawicz Birkowska K., PZWL Medical Publishing, Warsaw 2008

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