There are few things that cause a parent more anxiety than worrying over the health of their children, especially if you are concerned that your child might be showing signs of cancer. The most common type of pediatric cancer is leukemia, which affects a person’s blood cells and the lymphatic system. While there are many resources available for providing support to parents whose children are diagnosed with cancer, such as a childhood leukemia foundation, the time leading up to a diagnosis can be especially difficult. Here is some information on common symptoms of childhood leukemia and what tests can be done to be sure.
While many of the signs of leukemia can be attributed to other health conditions, including the common flu, parents should consult a doctor if symptoms persist for a long period of time or increase in severity. Here are common symptoms to look out for:
- Easily bruising or bleeding
- Consistent headaches
- Pale skin
- Feeling cold, fatigued, or dizzy
- Fever and sweating
- Reoccurring infections
- Bone aches
- Weight loss
- Swollen lymph nodes
If your child’s doctor suspects leukemia, there are several tests that can be done to make a diagnosis. Most often, the doctor will start with a blood test and check your child’s blood cell count. A high number of white blood cells accompanied by low levels of red blood cells or platelets is sometimes caused by leukemia. A bone marrow aspiration and biopsy can confirm if leukemia is present. This involves the doctor taking a small amount of bone marrow from the child to test for leukemia cells.
If leukemia cells are found, the doctor may then order other tests to determine the severity. A CT scan can help doctors see if the disease has spread into other body organs. A chest x-ray can show swollen lymph nodes. Other blood tests can indicate how organs in the body such as the kidneys or liver are functioning.