Childhood Leukemia

Care for Children with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia and Acute Myeloid Leukemia

Children and teens with leukemia have unique needs that can only be met by a team that's experienced in childhood leukemia treatment. Duke Children's team includes pediatric oncologists, bone marrow transplant specialists, and pediatric oncology nurses who work with social workers, psychologists, pediatricians, and others to offer comprehensive care and support. Your child receives the latest treatments and a full range of support services in our family-friendly environment.

Treatment Differs for Each Type of Leukemia that Affects Children

Leukemia is a cancer of the bone marrow, the substance inside bones that makes blood cells. Most often, leukemia affects the white blood cells that help fight infection, but it can affect red blood cells that carry oxygen, and platelets that help with blood clotting.

The most common types of leukemia in children include:

  • Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL)
  • Acute myeloid leukemia (AML)

Duke Children’s pediatric cancer doctors have the skills and expertise to treat all types of childhood leukemia, each of which requires a different treatment approach. We use blood tests and a bone marrow exam to identify the type of leukemia affecting your child and determine if it’s related to a genetic change. Doctors also take a sample of spinal fluid to determine whether leukemia cells are in the central nervous system. This comprehensive evaluation allows us to design and personalize a treatment plan that offers your child the best possible results while minimizing the risk of long-term side effects. We will also work with you to create a follow-up plan for long-term cancer screening. 

Your Child Benefits from Our Combined Expertise and Family-Centered Care

  • Our leukemia specialists are also researchers who are dedicated to improving care for childhood cancer. They collaborate with pediatric cancer experts worldwide through the Children's Oncology Group, the world’s largest childhood and adolescent cancer research organization. That means your child benefits from the combined knowledge of leading cancer care experts and has access to the latest treatments, including stem cell transplantation.
  • Your child’s cancer care team works collaboratively with pediatric specialists throughout Duke to address all areas of your child’s health that can be affected by leukemia and its treatment. Because leukemia affects the blood stream, your child’s care team may include expert guidance from specialists in heart care, neurology, hormonal disorders, reproductive health, and other areas. Together, we monitor your child’s health and manage his or her symptoms.
  • During different phases of treatment, your child will need to spend time in the hospital. The amount of time and how often varies. Your child and your family will have a full range of support to help you. Our child life specialists are available to explain a procedure or offer fun activities to help your child pass the time. Our social workers and psychologists can offer support and guidance. And you can get a light meal, take a shower, or use the computer in our Ronald McDonald House Family Room. We do everything we can to make your time at the hospital a little more comfortable.
  • Your child’s comfort is important to us. Our team focuses on managing symptoms and other aspects of treatment that affect your child’s quality of life. We help with pain management, supportive nutrition, relaxation techniques, and other approaches to help your child get through treatment as comfortably as possible. 


Your child’s treatment may include one or more therapies, depending on their needs. Your child’s care team will explain all the treatment options and help prepare you and your child for what to expect during each phase of treatment.

Family and Support Services

We treat the whole child -- not just the disease. Your child receives a personalized treatment and follow-up plan that’s tailored to their needs. You have access to a variety of services that are designed to make your child’s experience as positive as possible and support your family throughout treatment.

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