Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL)

ALL is a type of cancer that happens when your bone marrow (the spongy stuff inside your bones) isn’t working properly.

What does it feel like?

Leukaemia will replace your healthy blood cells with ones that don’t work properly. This can mean that you may feel a bit poorly at times and possibly:

  • Get lots of coughs and colds
  • Feel tired and out of breath
  • Get lots of bruises even when you haven’t banged yourself

How is it diagnosed?

A blood test will show any changes in your blood. If the specialist thinks it might be ALL, they will need to take out a little bit of bone marrow to test. This is done using an anaesthetic so it won’t hurt.  

Will I need medicine and treatment?

You will have lots of different medicines called chemotherapy. These medicines are to kill the cancer cells and help your bone marrow to work normally. You will need to have these medicines for a long time, even when you don’t feel ill any more, to stop the leukaemia from coming back. 

Some people will also need to have a bone marrow or stem cell transplant, but this depends on your leukaemia so it is best to talk to your specialist if you have any questions.

What will treatment feel like?

Chemotherapy might make you feel more tired and poorly than usual. It can make you feel a bit sick, change how much you need the toilet and you might lose your hair while you’re on treatment. 

This all might sound a bit scary, but it is very normal and part of helping you get better.

If you are worried, you should talk to your nurse or doctor, or a family member – there are lots of different ways they can help you. 

What will happen afterwards?

When your treatment has finished, you will still need to see a doctor regularly to make sure your cancer is staying away and that your body keeps working properly. Sometimes, people will need to continue having help, but this depends on the type of cancer and treatment you had and lots of people get better without any problems.

Will I get ill again?

If you have had the regular treatment for ALL, you probably won’t have any problems because of your cancer. Some people that have had a transplant or different treatment might get poorly later on, but the doctor will make sure that they are given the help they need and are always there to talk about what is happening and answer any questions.

Content updated October 2015, next planned review 2018.