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 tests 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. The doctor then orders blood tests, which come back as abnormal and point to the diagnosis. The best way to find these leukemias 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 been treated with chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy for other cancers, and for children who have had 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: 04/17/2015
Last Revised: 02/03/2016