Many types of cancer are grouped in stages based on how far the cancer has spread when found. Because ALL is in the blood, it has already spread throughout the body at the time of diagnosis. So, instead of stages, specialists put leukemia patients in “risk groups.”
Risk groups help the team decide on the best course of treatment. Children with high-risk ALL usually receive stronger treatments than children with standard risk ALL. Your doctor will look at several things to tell which risk group your child is in. One is the child’s age. Another is how many white blood cells are found in a sample of your child’s blood.
Often, patients are grouped as follows:
Standard (low) risk: Children aged 1 to 9 years who have a white blood cell count under 50,000.
High risk: Children younger than 1 year or older than 9 years, and any child with a white blood cell count of 50,000 or more.
However, your doctor will also take into account:
- Which type of B or T lymphocyte formed the leukemia cells. There are different kinds of lymphocytes. It is important to know which kind started the cancer.
- The type of changes found in the cancer cell genes
- How quickly the leukemia responds to therapy
- Whether the cancer has spread to the brain and spinal cord, testicles, or certain other parts of the body