Leukemia is a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues, including the bone marrow and the lymphatic system.
There are many forms of leukemia exist. Some forms of leukemia are more common in children. Other forms of leukemia commonly occur in adults.
The white blood cells are normally involved in leukemia. The white blood cells are effective fighters for infections they usually expand and split in an orderly manner because your body needs them. But the bone marrow produces dysfunctional white blood cells in people with leukemia, which don’t function properly.
Treatment for leukemia might be complex depending on the leukemia type and other factors. Yet there are approaches and resources which will help to make the treatment successful.
Symptoms of Leukemia differ, according to the type of leukemia. Common signs and symptoms of leukemia include:
- Fever or chills
- Constant tiredness and fatigue
- Recurrent or serious infections
- Loss of weight without attempting
- Swollen lymph nodes, enlarged liver or spleen
- Easy bleeding or bruising
- Regular nosebleeds
- Small red spots in your skin
- Excessive sweating, especially at night
- Bone aches or tenderness
When to see a doctor
If you have any recurring signs or symptoms that bother you, make an appointment with the doctor.
Symptoms of leukemia are often ambiguous and not clear. You may ignore signs of early leukemia, because they may resemble symptoms of the flu and other common diseases.
Rarely, leukemia can be discovered for some other condition during blood tests.
Leukemia occurs when the DNA of developing blood cells, mainly white cells, incurs damage. This causes the blood cells to uncontrollably to expand and split.
Good and healthy blood cells die and are replaced by new cells. Which grow within the bone marrow.
The abnormal blood cells in their life cycle will not die at a natural stage. Instead, they are building up and taking up more space.
As the bone marrow produces more cancer cells, they begin to congest the blood, preventing the growth and normal functioning of healthy white blood cells.
Types of Leukemia
The major types of leukemia are:
- Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL): This is the most common type of leukemia in young children. ALL can also occur in adults.
- Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML): AML is a common type of leukemia. It occurs in children and adults. AML is the most common type of acute leukemia in adults.
- Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL): With CLL, the most common chronic adult leukemia, you may feel well for years without needing treatment.
- Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML): This type of leukemia mainly affects adults. A person with CML may have few or no symptoms for months or years before entering a phase in which the leukemia cells grow more quickly.
- Other types: Other, rarer types of leukemia exist, including hairy cell leukemia, myelodysplastic syndromes and myeloproliferative disorders.
Factors which can increase the risk of developing some types of leukemia include:
- Previous cancer treatment: People who’ve had certain types of chemotherapy and radiation therapy for other cancers have a high chance of developing certain types of leukemia.
- Genetic disorders: Genetic abnormalities tend to play a part in leukemia growth. Some genetic disorders, such as Down syndrome, are related to high risk of leukemia.
- Smoking: Cigarettes use raises the risk of acute myelogenous leukemia.
- Family history of leukemia: If your family members have been diagnosed with leukemia, your risk of developing the disease may be high.
Most people with identified risk factors do not get leukemia though. Yet many leukemia sufferers do not have any of these risk factors.
Treatment for leukemia is dependent on a variety of factors. The doctor will decide the medical options for leukemia based on your age and general health, the form of leukemia and whether it has spread to other parts of your body, including the central nervous system.
Treatments widely used to treat leukemia include:
- Chemotherapy: This is the major form of treatment for leukemia. Treatment with this medication uses chemicals to destroy leukemia cells. You can receive a single medication or a combination of medication, depending on the type of leukemia you have. These drugs can come in a form of a pill, or they may be directly injected into a vein.
- Biological Therapy: This type of therapy works by using treatments to help your immune system recognize and attack leukemia cells.
- Targeted Therapy: This type of therapy uses drugs that attack specific vulnerabilities within your cancer cells. For example, the drug imatinib stops the action of a protein within the leukemia cells of people with chronic myelogenous leukemia. It will help in managing the disease.
- Radiation Therapy: This type of therapy uses X-rays or other high-energy beams to injure and stop the growth of leukemia cells. You lie on a table, during radiation therapy, while a massive machine moves around you, directing the radiation to precise points on your body. You may get radiation in one particular area of the body where leukemia cells are concentrated, or you may get radiation all over your body. Radiation therapy can be used in preparation for a stem cell transplant.
- Stem cell transplant: A stem cell transplant is a procedure to replace the diseased bone marrow with healthy bone marrow. Before a stem cell transplant, you receive high doses of chemotherapy or radiation therapy to kill your diseased bone marrow. Then you get an infusion of blood-forming stem cells that help to regenerate your bone marrow. You can get stem cells from a donor, or you may be able to use your own stem cells in certain instances. A stem cell transplant is very similar to that of a bone marrow transplant.
There is no known way to avoid leukemia, but it could be beneficial to avoid cigarettes and exposure to pesticides and industrial chemicals.