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Childhood Leukemia Physiotherapy

Leukemia refers to a cancer of blood-forming cells, and is the most common cancer diagnosis in children. However, the exact cause of leukemia is not known.

Survival rates of children with the disease have improved in recent years and will continue to improve.

What our senior physiotherapists do to help children with childhood leukemia focuses on

  • maintaining strength and function
  • reduce some of the effects of cancer treatment

What is Childhood Leukemia?

Leukemia is a cancer of the blood-forming cells found in the bone marrow, the soft center of most bones, where blood cells are produced.

When leukemia is present, the body produces increased numbers of immature blood cells called "blasts." These blasts do not mature correctly; the large number of abnormal, incorrectly maturing cells can crowd out normal cells in the bone marrow.

Typically it's only the white blood cells are affected, but other types of blood cells, such as red blood cells or platelets also can be affected.

  • Red blood cells are responsible for delivering oxygen to all the parts of the body
  • Platelets clot the blood in order to stop bleeding
  • White blood cells protect us from infections

Having a reduced number of normal cells of any of these specialized blood cells will definitely be negative and detrimental to our health.

  • A lack of red blood cells may result in anemia, causing fatigue and difficulty breathing.
  • Low levels of platelets can result in bleeding or easy bruising.
  • Not having enough white blood cells increases the risk of infection.

Because leukemia changes the blood, the illness is systemic and affects the whole body. Leukemia accounts for about 30% of all cancers seen in children.

Types of Leukemia

Childhood leukemia is classified into several types described as either acute or chronic. Acute means that the cancer is growing rapidly. Chronic means that it is growing more slowly.

Acute leukemia is more common in children and can be grouped into 3 main types:

  • Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is commonly diagnosed in young children, most often between the ages of 2 and 4 years. ALL occurs more commonly in boys, and in Hispanic or Caucasian children, and less often among African American children.

  • Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) can develop at any time during childhood, but it is most commonly diagnosed within the first 2 years of life and during teenage years. AML is diagnosed equally across genders and races. AML is also known as acute myeloid leukemia, acute myelocytic leukemia, or acute nonlymphocytic leukemia.

  • Hybrid or mixed-lineage leukemia is a rare form of leukemia that has characteristics of both ALL and AML.

  • Juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia (JMML) is another rare type of leukemia, and is neither acute nor chronic.

  • Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) are 2 chronic forms of leukemia that are rare and more often seen in older children.

what Does childhood leukemia Feel like?

Children with leukemia may experience:

  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Bone pain
  • Bruising or bleeding
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Swelling or pain in various parts of the body

As leukemia cells increase in the bone marrow and the normal cells that prevent anemia, bleeding, and infections are decreased, children may become weak, experience fatigue, and generally not feel weak and generally unwell.

The increased bleeding may cause symptoms such as

  • bruises
  • nosebleeds
  • bleeding gums or
  • paleness

If the leukemia cells enter other organs, swelling and pain might occur in almost any part of the body. Children typically enjoy activities and play. When any of these symptoms are present and children limit their participation in play, they need to be examined by a medical professional. Some other illnesses may have symptoms similar to leukemia, and health care providers can conduct tests to find the correct diagnosis.

How Is childhood leukemia Diagnosed?

When a child or teenager shows symptoms that could be related to leukemia, a physical examination and a full review of the child's medical history by a health care provider is essential.

Parents should share any family history of cancer, the symptoms they have noticed, how long the symptoms have been present, and any risk factors, such as genetic factors or previous treatment with chemotherapy or radiation.

Several tests are used to diagnosis leukemia, including

  • blood tests
  • bone tests
  • spinal fluid tests

The blood sample is evaluated to determine the number of each type of blood cells present (called a complete blood count). The cells' appearance is also examined under a microscope. When leukemia is present in a child, the blood tests often reveal increased numbers of abnormal, immature white blood cells—the above-mentioned "blasts"—and a reduced number of red blood cells.

Additional tests are used to classify the leukemia and to gather more information about the specific genetic makeup of the abnormal cells. These tests may be repeated during treatment to determine how well the child is responding to treatment.

How Can our senior PhysioTherapists Help?

Our senior physiotherapists are an important member of the team of health care professionals working with children who have leukemia. Our physiotherapy goals of treatment for all children include:

  • Reducing pain
  • Maintaining strength and movement
  • Supporting participation in activities as possible during chemotherapy or other treatments

The most common medical treatment for leukemia is chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy is given as combinations of several different drugs and can be given in a variety of ways, such as intravenously or in a pill form. Chemotherapy regimens for the ALL type of leukemia usually take about 2 to 3 years. The regimens for the AML type of leukemia take approximately 1 year.

Another possible medical treatment for leukemia is a stem cell transplant (SCT). In this form of treatment, stem cells are given to the child with leukemia either from a sibling, unrelated donor, or possibly from umbilical cord blood. The SCT is used to replace healthy stem cells in the bone marrow. 

Children receiving chemotherapy may experience side effects, including

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • hair loss
  • mouth sores
  • decreased blood counts
  • changes in sensation
  • particularly in the feet
  • muscle weakness
  • fatigue

The effects of the SCT may be similar. The lengthy treatment also may result in weakness and a loss of the ability to participate in activities like other children.

We will implement ways to modify and encourage play and learning activities to allow continued participation by the child during treatment.

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Phoenix Rehab Physio Services

Phoenix Rehab Group works with specialist physiotherapists and rehab therapists who are highly trained, qualified, experienced and passionate to provide high level of expert care to our patients.


Patients who sustained injuries to their elbows, forearms, hands, wrists (sprains and fractures) and fingers, usually will benefit / require Hand Therapy to

  1. manage and decrease hand pains
  2. improve range of motion, strength and dexterity
  3. increase the function of their hand following injuries or post-operations

Commonly treated hand pain injuries includes


Clinical Pilates is a form of physical exercise that focuses on posture, core stability, balance, control, strength, flexibility and breathing.

It is a system of safe and effective exercises, which meet specific individual needs, to treat a wide range of injuries and conditions.

You may do Pilates as matwork or with the reformer or both, and every session will be customized 100% to your fitness, injury and tolerance.


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Sports and deep tissue release massage helps to increase nutrient-rich blood flow to tired, tight and tense muscles to accelerate recovery and  shorten downtime / recovery period required.

It also prevents muscles from scar tissue micro-tears (and potential ruptures), and increases muscle performance. Having regular deep tissue and sports massage will keep your muscles healthy and fit with body/movement-confidence.

Read the benefits of regular deep tissue release therapy here.


All our allied health therapists and TCM physicians are fully insured and registered with Allied Health Professions Council (AHPC) and Traditional Chinese Medicine Board (TCMB).

See our entire team here with introductions and their specializations.

At the first session, our specialist physiotherapists will carry out a thorough assessment, helping them to select the most appropriate treatment to help you recover as well as provide treatment in the same session.

Follow up sessions are inline to provide expert treatment for your pain as well as prescribing specific exercises to reduce your risk of re-injury and giving you a long term solution.

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