White blood cells protect our bodies from infection and diseases. Leukemia is cancer of the white blood cells, but there are several different types of childhood leukemia. Although we can cure most kids and teens with leukemia, the type your child has affects how it is treated.
Acute vs. Chronic Leukemia
Leukemia happens when white blood cells don’t develop normally. Like people, cells are born, grow up and eventually die. Leukemia is either acute or chronic, depending on when these cells go haywire:
- Acute leukemia: Acute leukemia happens when white blood cells stop developing when young. Acute leukemia comes on quickly and spreads fast, which means you should treat it as soon as possible. At Nemours Children’s, we diagnose leukemia within days so your child can start treatment quickly. Acute leukemias are more common than chronic leukemias.
- Chronic leukemia: Chronic leukemia happens when white blood cells start maturing and then stop. Since it grows slower than acute leukemia, it doesn’t always need immediate treatment. When it does, treatment is usually lifelong.