Understanding Your Phase of Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL)

The way a cancer spreads is called its pathophysiology. Most types of cancer are staged to communicate the size of the tumor and how far the cancer has spread. But leukemia rarely causes tumors. And because it is in your bone marrow and blood, it has already spread all over your body. With ALL, doctors describe the extent of the cancer using phases.  There are 3 phases.

  • Untreated ALL.   During this phase, your doctor has just diagnosed you with ALL. Your complete blood count (CBC) is abnormal. You have more than 5% immature white blood cells, called blasts, in your bone marrow. And you have symptoms of leukemia, such as pain, fever, and bleeding. You have not been treated except to ease these symptoms.

  • ALL in remission. You have received treatment for ALL. During this phase, your CBC is normal, you have less than 5% blasts, and you have no signs or symptoms of leukemia anywhere in your body.

  • Relapsed ALL, also called recurrent ALL. If your cancer goes into this phase, your symptoms return, your CBC becomes abnormal again, and you have at least 5% blasts. Because you will have already undergone treatment, your doctor may need to consider a new treatment plan to bring you back into remission.


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