Blood cancers in children, such as leukemia and lymphoma, are relatively rare but require prompt diagnosis and specialized treatment. Here’s an overview of the diagnosis and treatment approach for blood cancer in children:

Diagnosis of Blood Cancer in Children

  1. Symptoms and Initial Evaluation:
    • Common Symptoms: Children may present with symptoms such as unexplained fever, frequent infections, bruising or bleeding easily, bone pain, fatigue, and unexplained weight loss.
    • Physical Examination: A thorough physical exam, including palpation of lymph nodes, liver, and spleen, may reveal signs suggestive of blood cancer.
  2. Diagnostic Tests:
    • Blood Tests: Initial blood tests include a complete blood count (CBC) and peripheral blood smear to evaluate levels of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.
    • Bone Marrow Aspiration and Biopsy: A bone marrow biopsy is performed to examine the bone marrow for abnormal cells, which helps confirm the diagnosis and determine the type of blood cancer.
    • Imaging Studies: X-rays, ultrasound, CT scans, or MRI scans may be used to assess the extent of disease involvement and identify any masses or enlarged lymph nodes.
    • Lumbar Puncture (Spinal Tap): This procedure may be done to check for cancer cells in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and determine if the cancer has spread to the brain and spinal cord.

Types of Blood Cancers in Children

  1. Leukemia:
    • Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL): The most common type of childhood leukemia, characterized by the rapid proliferation of immature lymphoid cells in the bone marrow and blood.
    • Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML): Less common than ALL in children, AML involves the rapid growth of abnormal myeloid cells in the bone marrow.
  2. Lymphoma:
    • Hodgkin Lymphoma: Characterized by the presence of Reed-Sternberg cells and often manifests with painless swelling of lymph nodes in the neck, armpits, or groin.
    • Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma: Includes various types, with the most common subtype in children being Burkitt lymphoma, which grows quickly and often forms tumors in the abdomen, jaw, or other organs.

Treatment Approaches

  1. Chemotherapy:
    • Induction Therapy: Intensive chemotherapy is typically the first-line treatment to induce remission by killing cancer cells in the bone marrow, blood, and other affected organs.
  2. Radiation Therapy:
    • Localized Disease: Radiation may be used to target specific areas of disease involvement, such as bulky tumors or areas with residual cancer after chemotherapy.
  3. Stem Cell Transplantation:
    • High-Risk or Relapsed Disease: For some children with high-risk or relapsed blood cancers, stem cell transplantation (bone marrow or peripheral blood) may be considered to replace diseased bone marrow with healthy stem cells.
  4. Targeted Therapy and Immunotherapy:
    • Specific Subtypes: Depending on the type and genetic characteristics of the blood cancer, targeted therapies or immunotherapies may be used to specifically target cancer cells while sparing healthy tissues.

Supportive Care and Monitoring

  • Management of Side Effects: Supportive care measures, including medications to prevent infections, manage nausea and vomiting, and support blood counts, are essential throughout treatment.
  • Psychosocial Support: Children and their families benefit from comprehensive psychosocial support, including counseling, child life specialists, and support groups, to cope with the emotional and practical challenges of treatment.

Long-Term Follow-Up

  • Survivorship Care: After completing treatment, regular follow-up visits are crucial to monitor for disease recurrence, manage late effects of treatment, and support the child’s ongoing health and development.


Diagnosis and treatment of blood cancer in children require a multidisciplinary approach involving pediatric oncologists, hematologists, nurses, and support staff. Advances in treatment options and supportive care have significantly improved outcomes for children with blood cancers, emphasizing the importance of early diagnosis, personalized treatment plans, and comprehensive supportive care throughout the treatment journey. Continued research and clinical trials aim to further refine treatment strategies and improve long-term outcomes for pediatric patients with blood cancer.

By Sue