Risk Groups of Childhood ALL

Risk groups of childhood ALL are used instead of stages to determine the extent of the cancer. Tests and procedures used to determine the risk groups of childhood ALL include lumbar puncture, chest x-ray, and testicular biopsy. Risk groups of childhood ALL include standard risk, high risk, and recurrent. It is important to know the risk groups of childhood ALL in order to plan treatment.

Risk Groups of Childhood ALL: An Introduction

Once childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) has been diagnosed, tests are done to find out if the cancer has spread to the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord), the testicles, or other parts of the body.
 
The extent or spread of cancer is usually described in stages. For childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), risk groups are used instead of stages. Tests and procedures that may be used to determine the risk group include:
 
  • Lumbar puncture: This procedure collects cerebrospinal fluid from the spinal column by placing a needle into it. This procedure is also called an LP or spinal tap.
 
  • Chest x-ray: An x-ray of the organs and bones inside the chest. An x-ray is a type of energy beam that can go through the body and onto film, making a picture of areas inside the body.
 
  • Testicular biopsy: The removal of cells or tissues from the testicles so that they can be viewed under a microscope to check for signs of cancer. This procedure is done only if there seems to be anything unusual about the testicles during the physical exam.
 

Specific Risk Groups of Childhood ALL

In childhood ALL, risk groups are used instead of stages. Risk groups include:
 
  • Standard (low) risk: Includes children ages 1 to 9 who have a white blood cell count of less than 50,000/µL at diagnosis.
 
  • High risk: Includes children younger than 1 year or older than 9 years and children who have a white blood cell count of 50,000/µL or more at diagnosis.
 
  • Recurrent: Recurrent childhood ALL is cancer that has recurred (come back) after it has been treated. The leukemia may come back in the blood and bone marrow, brain, testicles, spinal cord, or other parts of the body.
 
It is important to know the risk group in order to plan childhood ALL treatment.
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