Symptoms and Signs of Adult Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL)

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 9/17/2021

Doctor's Notes on Adult Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL)

Adult acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL; also called acute lymphocytic leukemia) is a type of cancer of the blood and bone marrow in which the bone marrow makes too many lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell). Leukemia cells are not able to fight infection very well, and as the number of leukemia cells increases in the blood and bone marrow, there is less room for healthy white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. Acute forms of cancer usually worsen quickly if not treated. 

Symptoms of adult acute lymphoblastic leukemia may resemble the flu and include:

  • weakness,
  • tiredness, 
  • fever
  • night sweats,
  • easy bruising or bleeding,
  • petechiae (flat, pinpoint spots under the skin, caused by bleeding),
  • shortness of breath, 
  • weight loss,
  • loss of appetite,
  • pain in the bones or stomach,
  • pain or feeling of fullness below the ribs,
  • having many infections, and
  • painless lumps in the neck, underarm, stomach, or groin.

What Is the Treatment for Adult Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL)?

Initial treatment of adult acute lymphoblastic leukemia includes:

  • chemotherapy,
  • therapy to prevent spread of the cancer to the brain, and 
  • in some cases, therapy with specialized drugs called tyrosine kinase inhibitors. 

Following remission, treatment may consist of these same types of therapies as well as stem cell transplant. 

Recurrent adult ALL may be treated by any of the previous therapy categories as well as: 

  • monoclonal antibody therapy,
  • low-dose radiation therapy as a palliative treatment, and 
  • participation in clinical trials of new therapies.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.