Acute Lymphocytic Leukaemia​​​

Acute lymphocytic leukaemia is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow in which your lymphocytes (a form of white blood cells) become affected. It is more common in children, though adults may also be affected.  

Acute lymphocytic leukaemia develops when the blood cell production in your bone marrow develops a fault. Immature cells called lymphoblast develop and start to take the place of normal and healthy cells, leading to cancer.

Risk factors typically associated with acute lymphocytic leukemia are:

  • Having been previously treated for cancer and consequently exposed to radiation or chemotherapy

  • Other instances of exposure to radiation or chemical substances

  • Blood or genetic disorders

  • A sibling who has had acute lymphocytic leukemia​​

Common symptoms for acute lymphocytic leukemia are:

  • Fever 

  • Recurrent infections

  • Shortness of breath

  • Weakness and fatigue

  • Bleeding from the gums or nose

  • Ache in bones and joints

  • Swollen neck, underarms, abdomen or groin

  • Pale skin​


The symptoms of acute lymphocytic leukemia are similar to the flu. If these symptoms persist beyond 2 weeks, you can consult a doctor working with the Oncology Service Line​ at The Aga Khan University Hospital​

Your time with your doctor maybe limited, so make sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. Here​ are some tips to help get you started​

To check for acute lymphocytic leukemia the following tests may be performed:

  • Blood test: the irregularities in blood test will include increased white blood cells, decreased red blood cells and platelets. There may also be blast cells (immature cells in the bone marrow). 

  • Bone marrow biopsy: a needle is used to extract sample of your bone marrow (usually from the hip bone), for scrutiny in the laboratory

  • Spinal tap or lumbar puncture: the fluid from around your spinal cord is extracted using a hollow needle to test for leukemia cells

  • Computerized Tomography (CT) scan, X-ray or ultrasound, to determine the spread of cancer.

The treatment for acute lymphocytic leukemia falls into three stages:

Induction: The therapy kills the cancerous cells in order to restore the normal production

Consolidation: This therapy is aimed at killing any remaining leukemia cells.

Maintenance: The therapy ensures that leukaemia does not return by providing treatment at regular intervals over a long period of time.

Common treatments for acute lymphocytic leukemia are:

  • Chemotherapy: this treatment option uses anti-cancer drugs which are either injected into your veins or given orally. These drugs aim to kill cancer cells around your body.

  • Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy involves using high energy rays in order to kill cancer cells. 

  • Targeted therapy: this form of therapy uses targeted drugs which a specially designed to take advantage of the specific vulnerabilities of your cancerous cells.​

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.​

The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments’ costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.​

Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.