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What is Blood Cancer

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is a type of cancer of the blood and bone marrow, a semi-solid tissue which may be found within the spongy or cancellous portions of bones where blood cells are made.

The word "acute" signifies the fact the disease is progressing rapidly and creates immature blast cells instead of mature blood cells. ALL is the most common type of cancer in children, though it can also occur in adults.

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Signs and symptoms of Acute Lymphoblastic leukemia may include:

Bleeding, such as frequent or severe nosebleeds, bleeding gums, or heavy menstrual bleeding in women

Fever, Bone pain and frequent infections

Pale skin and Shortness of breath

Blood cells may build up in the liver and spleen, thereby enlarging these organs.

Weakness, fatigue or a general decrease in energy

Risk Factor

A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease such as cancer. Some risk factors, like smoking, can be controlled. Others, like a person's age or family history, can't be controlled
Chemical Exposure

Some chemotherapy drugs and certain other chemicals, like benzene may increase the risk to ALL.


More likely to occur in children < 5 years and in adults over the age of 50 years.


More common in Caucasians, reasons not clear.


Slightly more prevalent in males than in females, reasons unknown

Exposure to Radiation

High levels of radiation exposure is a risk factor for both ALL and AML. Eg: Atomic bomb survivors of Japan had increased risk of developing acute leukemia.


  • Bone marrow tests
    Bone marrow Aspiration
    • Bone marrow aspiration: Samples are usually taken from the back of the pelvic (hip) bone, although in some cases they may be taken from the sternum (breastbone) or other bones. A thin, hollow needle is then inserted into the bone and a syringe is used to suck out a small amount of liquid bone marrow. Even with the anesthetic, most patients still have some brief pain when the marrow is removed.

  • Biopsy
    Lumbar Puncture (Spinal Tap)
    • ALL can spread to the area around the brain and spinal cord. To check for this spread, doctors remove a sample of the fluid from that area (cerebrospinal fluid or CSF) for testing

    Lymph Node Biopsy
    • A lymph node or part of a lymph node is often removed to help diagnose lymphomas, but this is only rarely needed with leukemia because the diagnosis is usually made from blood and bone marrow

  • Lab tests used to diagnose and classify ALL
    • Cells are put on a slide and stained with dyes that react only with some types of leukemia cells. These stains cause color changes that can be seen under a microscope, which can help the doctor determine what types of cells are present.

  • Blood Tests
    Complete Blood Count (CBC)
    • measures the numbers of RBCs, WBCs, and platelets. It is often done along with a differential which looks at the numbers of the different types of white blood cells. These tests are often the first line of testing for suspected patients