Acute Leukaemia

Acute leukaemia is a serious but treatable condition that occurs in adults as well as in children. It is a cancerous (malignant) condition that involves the bone marrow and blood. Acute leukaemia is serious because it prevents normal bone marrow function; as a result affected patients can get severe anaemia (low red blood cells), severe reduction in normal white blood cells (increasing the risk of infections), and reduction in blood platelets (resulting in an increased risk of bleeding).

Acute leukaemia can occur unexpectedly (de novo) or as a result of a previous bone marrow disease (e.g myelodysplasia or chronic myeloid leukaemia). Acute leukaemia that arises de novo is curable, although not in all cases. It is much more difficult to cure acute leukaemia that arises from some other bone marrow disorders.

The diagnosis of acute leukaemia is a medical emergency as serious and sometimes life threatening complications can occur within days of the diagnosis. The diagnosis is made by review of blood tests and a bone marrow biopsy.

Treatment generally involves chemotherapy and this is generally given in "cycles" that may last 3-4 weeks, depending on the particular kind of leukaemia. The chemotherapy is generally well tolerated and most of the side effects come from the effects of having low blood counts as a result of the chemotherapy (e.g. infections, bleeding, need for blood transfusion). Current treatments to prevent nausea and vomiting are highly effective and most patients eat and drink throughout their treatment.

Our clinic only treats adults and teenagers with acute leukaemia. Children need to be treated in hospitals appropriately set up for their needs.

Additional Information on Acute Myeloid Leukaemia

Information on acute myeloid leukaemia from the Leukaemia Foundation

Information on acute myeloid leukaemia from "UptoDate"

Additional Information on Acute Lymphoid (lymphoblastic) Leukaemia

Information on acute lymphoblastic leukaemia from the Leukaemia Foundation

Information on acute lymphoblastic leukaemia from "UpToDate"

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