What are Leukemia and Lymphoma?

Pediatric Leukemia

Leukemia is a cancer of the blood and develops in the bone marrow. Normally, the cells in the bone marrow follow signals to know when to start and stop making white blood cells. But when a child has leukemia, the bone marrow makes abnormal white blood cells without stopping. These abnormal white blood cells don’t help fight infection like normal white blood cells do. And since they continue to be created without stopping, they start to crowd out normal blood cells, leading to symptoms like infections, anemia and bleeding.

Researchers think leukemia is caused by a mixture of genetic and environmental factors, and our doctors are working to better understand these influences.

There are three main types of childhood leukemia:

  • Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL)
  • Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML)
  • Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML)

ALL is the most common childhood leukemia. Roughly 80 percent of childhood leukemia cases are ALL, while 17 percent are AML and only 3 percent are CML.

Pediatric Lymphoma

There are two main types of lymphoma in children: Hodgkin’s lymphoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Thanks to decades of research and treatment breakthroughs, these diseases are now curable more than 90 percent of the time. Our doctors and researchers continue to test new treatments that are designed to fight advanced lymphoma more effectively and reduce potential future side effects for all patients.

Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma are cancers of the lymphatic system, which is part of the immune system and helps fight disease. Both types of lymphoma cause cells in the lymphatic system to grow uncontrollably, eventually causing the lymph nodes and other sites to swell. These cancer cells can also spread to other organs and tissues.

The main symptom of both forms of lymphoma is painless swelling of the lymph nodes. In Hodgkin’s lymphoma, this swelling is more likely to occur in the neck, underarms or chest. In non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, this swelling can appear in the lymph nodes or other organs throughout the body. Patients with either type of lymphoma can also experience weight loss, fevers and night sweats.