What are the types of childhood leukemia?

The major types of childhood leukemia include:

  • Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). This is the most common cancer in childhood, tends to occur most often in children between the ages of 2-6, and is treated with chemotherapy that is mostly administered in the outpatient setting.
  • Acute myeloid leukemia (AML). This is the second most common type of leukemia diagnosed in children, most often diagnosed either in very young children (<2 years of age) or in teenagers. It is treated with chemotherapy, most often in the inpatient setting.
  • Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). This is a less common type of leukemia diagnosed in children, mostly in the teenage years. Treatment is typically with an oral chemotherapy drug that specifically targets the genetic abnormality in the leukemia cells.
  • Juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia (JMML). This is a very rare type of leukemia, diagnosed in infants or very young children. Stem cell transplant is required, with some children receiving chemotherapy prior to stem cell transplant.

What causes leukemia in children?

The specific cause for most leukemias in children is unknown, but there are a few known risk factors related to this type of cancer. These include:

  • Genetic disorders, such as Down syndrome (trisomy 21) and Li-Fraumeni syndrome.
  • Inherited immune system conditions, such as Ataxia-telangiectasia and Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome.
  • Environmental risk factors, like exposure to radiation or chemotherapy given for other cancers.

What are the symptoms of childhood leukemia?

Symptoms of leukemia vary depending on the type of leukemia — acute or chronic. Some of the more common symptoms of leukemia may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Pale skin
  • Bleeding and/or bruising
  • Recurrent infections
  • Bone and joint pain
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Difficulty breathing

The University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children's Hospital provides comprehensive diagnostics, treatments and long-term follow-up care for children and adolescents who have leukemia.

How is leukemia in children diagnosed?

We offer the latest tools and technology for diagnosing childhood cancer. The diagnosis of leukemia begins with a complete medical history and physical exam followed by medical tests. Diagnostic procedures for leukemia include:

  • A complete blood count (CBC) to examine white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets
  • Bone marrow aspiration and biopsy to look at the cavity where all blood cells in the body are made. This is where leukemia starts.
  • State-of–the-art flow cytometry analysis, molecular diagnostics and a chromosome analysis to determine the subtype of leukemia
  • A spinal tap to examine the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord to determine if any of the leukemia has spread to the central nervous system

How is childhood leukemia treated?

Your child’s specific treatment plan depends on a variety of factors and will be mapped out by our full team of pediatric cancer experts.

We offer conventional pediatric leukemia treatments, as well as the latest innovative therapies, and tailor the plan to each patient’s unique needs.

Why choose UChicago Medicine?

At Comer’s Children, we take a multidisciplinary approach to treating every child and teen with leukemia.

Our team of experts bring together years of extensive experience with cutting-edge research to offer outstanding clinical care that results in the best outcomes possible.

Through our special Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Oncology Program, we provide comprehensive care specifically for teenagers and young adults with leukemia – offering treatment and support throughout their cancer journey.


Find a Pediatric Cancer Location Near You

Request an Appointment

The information you provide on this secure form to request an appointment with a UChicago Medicine pediatric leukemia expert will enable us to assist you as efficiently as possible. A representative will contact you within one to two business days to help you schedule an appointment. 

You can also make an appointment with our providers by:

Scheduling a virtual video visit to see a provider from the comfort of your home

Requesting an online second opinion from our specialists

To speak to someone directly, please call 773-702-6169. If you have symptoms of an urgent nature, please call your doctor or go to the emergency room immediately.

For Referring Physicians

To refer a pediatric patient for leukemia care, please call UCM Physician Connect at 1-800-824-2282


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Childhood Leukemia