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Leukaemia is cancer of the white blood cells which are produced by bone marrow. The four main types of leukaemia are chronic myeloid, acute myeloid, chronic lymphocytic and acute lymphoblastic. The acute conditions come on suddenly, progress quickly and need urgent treatment whereas the chronic conditions develop slowly often over years. Symptoms include anaemia, frequent bruising, infections and abnormal bleeding.


Diagnosis of leukaemia is by analysis and microscopic examination of a blood sample however in the case of lymphocytic leukaemia it is necessary to take and examine a sample of bone marrow using biopsy techniques for confirmation. The most likely source of misdiagnosis of leukaemia is in the doctor’s surgery at which time the initial symptoms may be dismissed as unimportant or may be attributed to another less serious illness. Failure to arrange for follow up tests by a doctor is medical negligence. The main treatment used for leukaemia is chemotherapy often in conjunction with a bone marrow or stem cell transplant. The high doses of chemical used to kill the cancer also kills the bone marrow which produces new white blood cells thereby necessitating a bone marrow or stem cell transplant. Survival rates for adult victims of leukaemia are poor especially if the condition is not diagnosed or is misdiagnosed thereby ensuring that treatment is not started at an early stage. The key to survival with all cancers is early diagnosis and early treatment.

Leukaemia - Medical Negligence

Leukaemia involves having cancer of the various blood cells. While no one knows exactly why leukaemia occurs, there are known risk factors. Leukaemia are identified according to whether or not they are myelocytes or lymphocytes. The cancer can be acute or chronic. Complications of having leukaemia include having fevers, night sweat, easy bruisability, anemia, and weight loss. Leukaemia can be diagnosed by blood tests and bone marrow biopsy. The treatment of leukaemia involves chemotherapy, radiation therapy and bone marrow transplantation.

Leukaemia can be divided into different categories. There can be chronic leukaemia, which involves slow growing cells that often don�t kill the patient. Slow growing leukaemia can yield increased infections and swollen lymph nodes. In acute leukaemia, the cancer cells are so busy growing and dividing that they can�t act as normal cells. It is a cancer that grows quickly and takes over normal cells. Acute leukaemia can be myeloid, lymphoid, lymphocytic, myeloblastic, myelogenous or lymphocytic.

There are four main types of leukaemia. These include:

  • Chronic myeloid leukemia. It affects adults and grows very slowly in the beginning. There are about 5000 new cases of CML each year.
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia. It affects lymphoid cells and is slowly growing in about 15,000 adults each year. People are usually 55 years or older and almost never shows up in children.
  • Acute myeloid leukaemia or AML. This grows quickly and affects 13,000 new patients each year. It is seen in both children and adults.
  • Acute lymphocytic or lymphoblastic leukaemia or ALL. It grows very quickly and affects 5000 new cases each year, usually in young children.

While no one knows the exact cause of leukaemia, there are some risk factors that play into who gets leukaemia and who doesn�t get leukaemia. The risk factors for leukaemia include the following:

  • Radiation exposure. People who have had high levels of radiation in the past can get certain types of leukaemia. This includes being exposed to Atomic bombs, which increase the exposure to leukaemia, especially in children.
  • Radiation therapy. It isn�t known if regular x-rays contribute to a risk of leukaemia. Those who�ve had radiation for another cancer are at risk for leukaemia later in life.
  • Those who smoke are at risk for blood cancer.
  • Chemotherapy for another form of cancer can increase the risk of leukaemia.
  • Exposure to benzene, such as can be found in the workplace can cause CML or ALL later in life. Benzene can also be found in gasoline and cigarette smoke.
  • Down syndrome plus a few other genetic diseases will increase the sufferer�s risk of getting acute leukaemia.
  • Certain blood diseases like myelodysplastic syndrome can increase the risk of AML.
  • Having the HTLV-1 virus (human T cell leukaemia virus) means you are at an increased risk of adult T cell leukemia. This is a relatively rare disease but fortunately, it is not contagious.
  • Family history seems to be a factor in chronic lymphocytic leukaemia. Usually it is a first degree relative who also has the disease.

The symptoms of leukaemia depend on whether or not it is chronic or acute. If you have chronic leukaemia, you might not have any symptoms. A routine blood test may reveal the diagnosis. Acute leukaemia patients, on the other hand, feel sick. They go to see their doctor and are diagnosed with their disease.

Common symptoms a person might have with acute or chronic leukaemia include:

  • Fevers or sweats at night
  • Swollen lymph glands
  • Feeling fatigued or weak
  • Having frequent infections
  • Bruising or bleeding easily
  • Abdominal discomfort from a liver or spleen that is enlarged
  • Bone or joint pain
  • Unexplained weight loss

These symptoms lead the doctor to check the patient for blood disorders like leukemia. A doctor that fails to make the diagnosis is potentially putting the patient at harm.

Medical Negligence Solicitors

Our leukaemia solicitors operate the no win no fee scheme which is totally without risk. You only pay legal charges if the case is won. There are no upfront charges to pay whatsoever. If you would like to discuss your potential compensation claim with a leukaemia medical negligence solicitor just complete the contact form or email our solicitors offices or use the helpline. Once you have provided sufficient information you will speak with a leukaemia cancer solicitor who will advise you on the prospects of success for your claim and an estimated amount of compensation that may be awarded. Our advice is totally without cost and there is no further obligation to use our legal services. Do yourself justice and give us a call.

Leukaemia Overview

Leukaemia is a cancer involving the white blood cells of the body. White blood cells are divided into myeloid cells, B cells and T cells, and are responsible for our immune system function. White blood cells are made from stem cells in the bone marrow which grow into mature cells such as white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets.

Abnormal white blood cells are created from the bone marrow in leukaemia. The white blood cells have altered DNA and simply continue to grow and multiply. These cells crowd out other cells in the bloodstream and in the bone marrow.

There are various types of leukaemia. Chronic leukaemia is slow growing and often has no symptoms other than some fatigue. It gradually gets worse and involves the lymph nodes, which become swollen. The person is at higher risk of getting systemic infections. Acute leukaemia is faster moving than chronic leukaemia. The number of cells increases rapidly and acute leukemia usually worsens quickly.

The leukaemia can also be defined as a myeloid or lymphoid leukaemia. Lymphoid leukaemia affects lymphoid cells and myeloid leukaemia affects the myeloid cells. There are four different types of leukaemia: 1) chronic lymphocytic leukemia, which accounts for 15,000 cases per year; 2) Chronic myeloid leukaemia, which affects fewer people, about 5000 cases per year; 3) acute lymphocytic or lymphoblastic leukaemia affect around 5000 people per year; 4) acute myeloid leukaemia, which affects more than 13000 new cases per year.

Risk factors for getting leukaemia include previous exposure to radiation, such as in atomic bomb explosions, having radiation therapy for another type of cancer, having diagnostic x-rays, having a smoking history, exposing oneself to benzene in a laboratory or construction industry, having had chemotherapy, having a history of Down syndrome or other inherited diseases, and having myelodysplastic syndromes or other blood disorders. Other risk factors include being infected with HTLV-1, a virus you can catch from another person, or having a family history of leukaemia. Remember that most people with risk factors do not go on to develop leukaemia but the risk is still there.

Symptoms of leukaemia may be few. The individual may have malaise, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes and nausea, vomiting, headaches, confusion, loss of muscle control, or seizures. It can affect any body area and can have a variety of symptoms. You can have fevers or night sweats, frequent infections, weakness, easy bruisability, swelling of the abdomen from an enlarged liver or spleen, pain in the bones or joints and weight loss without a logical reason.

Diagnosis of leukaemia is done by doing a physical examination. The doctor checks the liver, the spleen and the lymph nodes for enlargement. Blood tests can show cancerous cells in the blood. A bone marrow evaluation can show cancer among the cells of the marrow. A bone marrow aspiration uses a narrow needle to extract cells from the bone marrow. A bone marrow biopsy uses a thick needle that grabs a large chunk of the bone and bone marrow in one attempt. A spinal tap will show if the cancer has spread to the cerebrospinal fluid. A chest x-ray can see if there are swollen lymph nodes in the chest cavity.

Treatment of leukaemia involves several choices. Some are mild enough so that watchful waiting can be done until the cancer becomes worse. Chemotherapy is a common treatment for leukaemia. Biological therapy has recently been used to treat leukaemia as has radiation therapy. Stem cell transplants are the latest in leukaemia treatment and, if the spleen is enlarged, the doctor may remove it to keep it from sequestering the white blood cells.

The treatment depends on whether the leukaemia is acute or chronic, how old you are and whether leukaemia cells were found in the cerebrospinal fluid. The features of the cancer cells determine which treatment is used for the management of the leukaemia. The treatment of acute leukaemia needs to be done immediately as this is a more aggressive form of cancer. Treatment is intended to make sure the cancer goes into remission. Chronic leukaemia may not need to be treated right away but can be watched to see if the cancer gets worse.

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The author of the substantive medical writing on this website is Dr. Christine Traxler MD whose biography can be read here