My speech is about a parent's worst nightmare. It is something that nobody wants to hear. A doctor says "your child has leukemia" and your world crumbles. Leukemia is one of the most common types of cancer in children. Each year thousands of children will learn that they have leukemia. Leukemia is a cancer of the blood. When leukemia develops the body produces a large number of abnormal blood cells. Leukemia cells are abnormal cells that cannot do what normal cells do. They cannot help fight off infections and because of this, children with leukemia often get infections and have fevers. They can also look pale and can bruise easily because they do not have enough platelets in their blood.
The causes of leukemia are not known but experts believe it develops from a combination of genetic and environmental factors. This could include exposure to radiation or industrial chemicals. One thing that experts do know is that boys are more likely to be diagnosed with leukemia than girls. .
Some of the most common symptoms of leukemia are fever and chills, weakness and fatigue, loss of appetite and weight, swollen or bleeding gums and bone or joint pain.
To diagnose leukemia the doctor would first order blood work. Even though blood work may show leukemia the only way to be positive would be a bone marrow test. This is done by inserting a needle into a large bone (usually the hip) and performing a biopsy on it.
The treatment for leukemia varies for each patient but the main goal is to bring about a remission so that there is no evidence of the disease.
Most patients with leukemia are treated with chemotherapy. This is the use of drugs to kill the cancer cells. This is usually given by an intravenous. Side effects of this are nausea, vomiting, lack of appetite and temporary hair loss. After chemotherapy most children would receive radiation therapy. Radiation therapy is beams of high-energy radiation aimed at the cancer cells, killing them.