Leukemia

Our pediatric oncology and hematology experts are experienced in treating all forms of childhood leukemia. At Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital & Health Center, your child receives personalized care backed by a comprehensive team of support specialists, all in a family-friendly setting that’s close to home.

Why Choose Us for Leukemia Treatment?

Parents choose Mary Bridge for leukemia treatment for their children because we offer:

  • High-quality care: We provide access to most clinical trials and the same standard care procedures used at leading cancer centers across the country.
  • Convenient access: Children can receive high-caliber leukemia care close to home, helping reduce disruption to everyday life. 
  • Personalized treatment: Our specialists provide treatment plans tailored to your child’s unique needs. Your child will only see board-certified physicians, compared to other hospitals where children may see physicians in training. At our hospital, your child will also typically see the same doctor throughout treatment.

Comprehensive leukemia support at Mary Bridge

We provide a complete range of services to support your child’s recovery and make treatment easier on your family, including:

  • A full team of experts in areas such as psychology, physical therapy and social services, all focused on your child’s care
  • Child life and sedation specialists to keep your child comfortable during all tests and procedures
  • Dietitians to help your child get the right nutrition to ensure effective treatment  
  • Bone marrow transplant coordination with Seattle Children’s Hospital. Also called a stem cell transplant, this procedure replaces defective blood-forming cells with normal ones.
  • Detailed follow-up care that includes blood tests and imaging to track your child’s recovery

What Is Leukemia?

Leukemia is a cancer of the blood that begins in the bone marrow, where the body makes new blood cells. Leukemia accounts for 1 in 3 cancers in children and young adults, making it the most common cancer in this age group.

Types of leukemia we treat in children include:

  • Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL): This type of leukemia starts in lymphocytes, a type of infection-fighting white blood cell. ALL makes up roughly 3 in 4 cases of childhood leukemia.  
  • Acute myeloid leukemia (AML): This leukemia accounts for most of the remaining childhood leukemias not represented by ALL. AML starts in the cells that become white blood cells other than lymphocytes, oxygen-carrying red blood cells or platelets that are essential for blood clotting.
  • Chronic leukemias: Our specialists have expertise in treating chronic leukemias, even though they are rare in children. Chronic leukemias tend to grow slower than acute forms of the disease, but they can also be more difficult to cure.

Symptoms of Leukemia

When leukemia cells accumulate in bone marrow, they can prevent normal production of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Low blood cell counts cause symptoms such as:

  • Anemia: Low levels of oxygen-carrying red blood cells can lead to fatigue, feeling weak or dizzy, headaches, pale skin and shortness of breath.
  • Chronic infections: Not having enough infection-fighting white blood cells often leads to repeat cases of infection, or infections that don’t go away.
  • Fever: Insufficient white blood cells can cause a fever, which is the main sign of infection. 

Leukemia cells can also travel to other areas of the body, causing symptoms that may include:

  • Bone pain: Leukemia cells that accumulate in bones and joints can cause painful bones and joints.
  • Abdominal swelling: Leukemia cells that build up in the spleen or liver can cause swelling in the abdomen or belly.
  • Appetite or weight loss: Spleen or liver enlargement can cause children to feel full quickly, leading them to eat less and potentially lose weight.
  • Swollen lymph nodes: Lumps in the neck, armpit or groin can be signs of leukemia.

Symptoms of leukemia are similar to symptoms of less serious problems, but it’s important to see a doctor if you notice these signs in your child.

Diagnosing Leukemia

Doctors use several tests and imaging procedures to help diagnose leukemia, including:

  • Blood tests: Abnormal numbers of white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets can be a sign of leukemia in children.
  • Bone marrow tests: To confirm a leukemia diagnosis, doctors may need to sample the bone marrow, or spongy interior of the bone. Specialists use a needle to take these samples, providing topical anesthetic or sedation so your child is comfortable.  
  • Spinal tap: Also called a lumbar puncture, this procedure allows doctors to check cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) surrounding the brain and spinal column for leukemia cells. Our specialists will use a numbing cream and sedation so the procedure is not painful for your child.
  • Imaging tests: Physicians sometimes use imaging tests such as X-rays, CT (computerized tomography) scan and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) to see if leukemia cells have spread to other parts of the body.

We understand that testing can be stressful for children. Our sedation services team and child life specialists are here to ensure your child’s comfort. Learn more about  imaging and diagnosis at Mary Bridge.

Leukemia Treatment at Mary Bridge

Pediatric oncology and hematology specialists treat childhood leukemia with  chemotherapy, which uses powerful drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy for patients with ALL requires a spinal tap. Our sedation services team provides anesthesia for a pain-free procedure, with most children home by lunch. 

If the leukemia involves the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord), your child’s doctor may also recommend  radiation therapy. This treatment uses high-energy radiation beams to shrink and eliminate tumors.

Mary Bridge is part of MultiCare Health System, and our children’s hospital shares a building with the MultiCare Regional Cancer Center. MultiCare’s radiation oncologists are experienced treating children, using the most advanced equipment available to protect your child’s growing body.

Contact Us

To make an appointment, please call 253-403-3481.