LEUKEMIAS IN CHILDHOOD:
Leukemia makes 35% of cancer cases in childhood, ranking first. Leukemia is divided into 2 main groups according to cell type; ALL (Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia) and AML (Acute Myeloblastic Leukemia). Subgroups can be defined within themselves. 1200-1500 new children cases with leukemia under 16 years old are reported in Turkey each year.
Causes of leukemia have not been enlightened completely yet. It has been shown in studies with new developments in cytogenetic and molecular techniques that leukemia is caused by genetic tendencies, radiation, benzene and its derivatives (glue, etc.), chemical substances such as insecticides, some inherited diseases and some viral diseases all together. Leukemia is seen at all ages. It increases most frequently around 2-5 years of age during childhood. Response to the treatment decreases in cases below 1 year old and above 10 years old.
An increase in blood cells called blasts, which are immature cells, occur with the change of cipher in stem cells in our bone marrow, which is the main production site of blood circulation in our vessels, due to any influence. These cells spread rapidly and occupy bone marrow, lymphatic glands, spleen, liver, brain and central nervous system.
The first appearing symptoms of leukemia in children are:
* Anorexia (loss of appetite)
* Weight loss
* Bone aches on legs
* Subcutaneous hemorrhage (red spots or bruises)
* Nose and gingival bleedings
Moreover, symptoms related to involved organs such as headache, vomiting, abdominal pain, visual disturbances may be important, too. On the examination by pediatric hematologists (blood diseases) applied with these complaints, mostly liver and spleen enlargement (hepatosplenomegaly), enlargement of lymphatic glands and symptoms of bleeding can be determined.
Definite diagnosis can be made as a result of blood, bone marrow, cell typing and genetic analyses. Detailed tests for diagnosis will generally be helpful for determining type and treatment principles of the leukemia.
Treatment primarily starts with methods of correcting the general status. At this stage, giving blood or specific cells in the blood from donors (volunteer blood donor) to leukemic patient, making the required interventions if there is an infection, taking precautions for protecting kidneys, liver and heart from side effects of chemotherapeutic drugs are very important.
Also, informing patients and their families about the disease, explaining that leukemia isn't an hopeless disease but improvement can be obtained with ratios reaching up to 85% with a good treatment and moral support is the second stage of the treatment.
TREATMENT PRINCIPLES AND FIRST TREATMENT:
It consists of administering at least 6 different drugs within 4-6 weeks via intravenous and oral route. The aim is to eliminate malignant stem cells called blast.
But, unfortunately this chemotherapeutic drugs not only effect malignant cells but also destroy beneficial cells of our body. For this reason, hairs of our children fall, wounds occur at their mouths and intestines and they become weak. Again, due to defensive cells protecting our body against infections are destroyed by those drugs, immune system becomes destroyed and even a small microbe or factor spreads throughout the body and causes severe feverish infections.
Therefore, our leukemic children wear a mask for protecting themselves from getting microbes from people around, air, water.