Acute lymphoblastic leukemia occurs when a bone marrow cell develops errors in its DNA. The error tells the cell to continue to grow and divide, when a healthy cell would normally die. When this happens, blood cell production goes away. The bone marrow produces immature cells that develop into leukemic white blood cells called lymphoblasts. These abnormal cells are unable to function properly, and which can build up and crowd out healthy cells. (Mayo clinic, 2010)
There are many different signs and symptoms towards this cancer, such as, bone or joint pain. Some patients have bone pain or joint pain caused by the buildup of leukemia cells in bones or joints. Swelling of the belly is another sign, leukemia cells may collect in the liver and spleen, causing them to swell. This may be noticed as a fullness or swelling of the belly. Also swollen lymph nodes, If the nodes are close to the surface of the body, they may be noticed as lumps under the skin. They're are other signs and symptoms as well as those.
ALL is diagnosed when blood and bone marrow samples show a large number of abnormal lymphocyte blasts. Doctors test samples taken from the blood and bone marrow. Such as, the size and number of leukemia cells. The type of lymphocyte affected; the leukemia cells can begin from one of two types of lymphocytes, B cells or T cells. They also see what changes appear in the chromosomes of the leukemia cells. This is called cytogenetics. Doctors use a test called a lumbar puncture or most commonly known as the spinal tap. This is to find out whether there are leukemia cells in the fluid around the brain and spinal cord.
Based on the tests, doctors may categorize ALL into one of the following types; early pre-B ALL, common ALL, pre-B cell ALL, which is known as Burkitt leukemia, pre-T cell ALL, and or mature T-cell ALL.
The treatment of acute lymphoblastic leukemia varies according to someones age, general condition at diagnosis and the results of the cytogenetic testing. Standard therapy for ALL has changed a little in the last 15 years or so, as the current strategy has been very effective at curing adults. Treatment can be divided into four phases; the first phase is induction chemotherapy. Second phase is consolidation chemotherapy. Third phase is maintenance chemotherapy. The last phase is central nervous system prophylaxis. The first two phases use intensive chemotherapy medications designed to kill the leukemia