Childhood Leukemia

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Early Detection, Diagnosis, and Staging TOPICS

Can childhood leukemia be found early?

At this time there are no widely recommended blood tests or other screening exams for most children to look for leukemia before it starts to cause symptoms. Childhood leukemia is often found because a child has symptoms that prompt a visit to the doctor. Blood test results are abnormal, which then points to the diagnosis. The best way to find these cancers early is to pay attention to the possible signs and symptoms of this disease (see “Signs and symptoms of childhood leukemia”).

For children known to be at increased risk of leukemia (because of Li-Fraumeni syndrome or Down syndrome, for example), most doctors recommend careful, regular medical checkups and possibly other tests. The same is true for children who have had other cancers treated with chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy, and for children who have received organ transplants and are taking immune system-suppressing drugs. The risk of leukemia in these children, although higher than in the general population, is still small.

Last Medical Review: 10/24/2013
Last Revised: 02/03/2014