Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, ALL is one of the many types of blood cancer. It is also one of the least common types of blood cancer in adults. It originates from the white blood cells that are in the bone marrow and then moves to the other bone parts that are softer.
ALL is a type of leukemia that starts from white blood cells in the bone marrow, the soft inner part of bones. It develops from cells called lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell central to the immune system, or from lymphoblasts, an immature type of lymphocyte.
Acute lymphoblastic leukemia invades the blood and can spread throughout the body to other organs, such as the liver, spleen, and lymph nodes. But it does not normally produce tumors as do many types of cancer. It is an acute type of leukemia, which means it can progress quickly. Without treatment, it can be fatal within a few months.
It is still not clear as to what could be the cause of ALL but just like other types of cancers, ALL is not infectious and cannot be passed on to others. Research is still being done to find out more about the disease.
There are a number of factors that may increase a person’s risk of developing ALL. Having a particular risk factor doesn’t mean you will definitely get ALL. And people without any known risk factors can still develop it. The known risk factors of ALL are:
Exposure to very high radiation levels (such as those during a nuclear accident or an atom bomb) increases the risk of developing ALL. However, very few people in the UK will be exposed to radiation levels high enough to increase their risk.
In recent years there has been publicity about the increase in leukaemia in people living close to nuclear power plants. Research is still underway to see if there is any definite link, but currently there is no evidence of this.
Research has shown that a person’s risk of developing ALL is not significantly increased by:
exposure to electromagnetic fields
living near high-voltage electricity cables
exposure to radon gas, which can pass from the soil into the foundations of some buildings in parts of the UK, such as the Peak District and the South West.
ALL is not caused by an inherited faulty gene, so members of your family don’t have an increased risk of developing ALL just because you have it. However, people with certain genetic disorders, including Down’s syndrome and Fanconi’s anaemia, are known to have a higher risk of developing leukaemia.
Exposure to chemicals
In very rare cases, leukaemia may occur in people who have been exposed to chemicals used in industry, such as benzene and other solvents.
There are three main types of treatment for Acute lymphocytic leukemia. These are stem cell transplant, chemotherapy and targeted therapy. ALL treatment takes a period of two years.
After your cancer is diagnosed and staged, your cancer care team will discuss your treatment options with you. Choosing a treatment plan is an important decision, so it is important to take time and think about your choices. Treatment options for each patient are based on the leukemia subtype as well as certain prognostic features.
The main types of treatment used for ALL are:
Stem cell transplant
Other treatments such as surgery, radiation therapy, or monoclonal antibodies, may be used in special circumstances.
Treatment of ALL typically lasts for about 2 years. It is often intense, especially in the first few months of treatment, so it is important that you are treated in a center that has experience with this disease.
You may have different types of doctors on your treatment team. The doctor in charge or your team will most likely be a hematologist, a doctor who specializes in treating blood diseases, including leukemia. Many other specialists may be involved in your care as well, including nurse practitioners, nurses, nutrition specialists, social workers, and other health professionals.