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Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia


Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), or acute lymphoblastic leukemia, is cancer of the blood cells. Lymphocytes are a type of white blood cell (WBC). A person who has ALL makes more lymphocytes than his body needs. The abnormal lymphocytes are called lymphoblasts (leukemia cells). Lymphoblasts do not fight infection like normal WBCs. They crowd the bone marrow and prevent normal blood cells from growing and fighting infection.


Call 911 for any of the following:

  • Your arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.
  • You feel lightheaded, short of breath, and have chest pain.
  • You cough up blood.

Seek care immediately if:

  • You have a headache, stiff neck, or have trouble seeing or thinking clearly.
  • You received chemotherapy in the last 2 weeks and you have a fever.

Contact your oncologist or healthcare provider if:

  • You see blood in your spit or vomit.
  • You have coughing or shortness of breath.
  • You feel dizzy or have a fast heartbeat.
  • You have sores or white patches in your mouth or throat.
  • You have rectal pain or hemorrhoids.
  • You have diarrhea or bloody bowel movements.
  • You have pain in your eyes, ears, skin, joints, or stomach.
  • You have pain when you urinate, or bad-smelling urine.
  • You have frequent nosebleeds, or your gums bleed.
  • You have blurred vision, or blood spots in the whites of your eyes.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Prevent infection:

  • Wash your hands often. Wash your hands after you go to the bathroom or change a diaper. Wash your hands before you prepare food or eat.
  • Avoid people who are sick. Stay away from people who have a cold or the flu. Also try to stay away from large groups of people to decrease your risk for a cold or the flu.
  • Clean humidifiers. Change the water in your humidifier or other respiratory equipment daily.

Prevent bleeding and bruising:

  • Do not use sharp objects. Use an electric razor to shave. Use a nail file to keep your nails short and smooth.
  • Care for your mouth. Use a soft toothbrush. Do not floss your teeth while your platelet count is low. Do not use toothpicks.
  • Choose light activities. Avoid any activity that may cause chest pain or trouble breathing. Do not play contact sports, such as football or soccer.
  • Blow your nose gently. Do not pick your nose. Your nose may bleed if you pick it.
  • Do not take NSAIDs or aspirin. NSAIDs and aspirin thin your blood and increase your risk for bleeding.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

You will need to see your oncologist for ongoing treatment. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Do not smoke:

Smoking increases your risk for new or returning cancer. Smoking can also delay healing after treatment. Do not use e-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco in place of cigarettes or to help you quit. They still contain nicotine. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help quitting.

Do not drink alcohol:

Alcohol can thin your blood and make it easier to bleed. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently drink alcohol and need help quitting.

Eat healthy foods:

Healthy foods may help you feel better and have more energy. If you have trouble swallowing, you may be given foods that are soft or in liquid form. Ask about any extra nutrition you may need, such as nutrition shakes or vitamins. Your healthcare provider may tell you to have more calcium and vitamin D to help protect your bones from fractures. Tell your healthcare provider if you have problems eating, or if you are nauseated.

Drink liquids as directed:

You may need to drink extra liquids to prevent dehydration, especially if you are vomiting or have diarrhea from cancer treatments. Ask how much liquid you need each day and which liquids are best for you.

© 2015 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.