Leukemia is a cancer of blood in which there are too many white blood cells in the bone and the bone marrow. A person’s bone marrow makes abnormal white blood cells, which are leukemia cells. Leukemia cells, unlike normal blood cells, do not die. They may displace normal white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets. Thus, they can’t do their work. There are several types of leukemia. They are grouped based on how quickly the disease develops and gets worse. The chronic leukemia usually gets worse slowly, whilst the acute leukemia gets worse quickly. Four major kinds of leukemia are:
1. Acute myeloid leukemia (AML)
2. Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML)
3. Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL)
4. Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)
Many patients do not have any symptoms. If they do, the most frequent are infections (e.g. infected tonsils, sores in the mouth or opportunistic infections). The other symptoms are feeling sick, weak or tired, having fevers, chills, night sweats, swelling or discomfort in the abdomen, weight loss for no reason, pain in the bones or joints). Abnormal bleeding may also be noticed. Finally the lack of red blood cells leads to anemia. Leukemia it is caused probably by mutations in the DNA. This is the result of ionizing radiation, viruses such as Human T-lymphotropic virus or HTLV-1. Some people whose family had leukemia may have some predisposition towards developing leukemia. This disease also occurs in twice as many patients who smoke cigarettes compares with those who do not.
However in most patients with leukemia, the disease does not have any identifiable cause. The other causes of leukemia are: benzene, down syndrome, myelodysplastic syndrome, radiation therapy, diagnostic x-rays, and atomic bomb explosions. Because the symptoms of leukemia are very vague, the disease is usually detected during routine blood test. That’s why American Cancer Society predicts that at least one-fifth of the people with leukemia have not yet been diagnosed. Final diagnosis is usually made after a bone marrow biopsy. A doctor can ask you to do other tests e.g. physical exam, cytogenetic, spinal tap or chest x-ray. There are a lot of treatments options.
The most common is chemotherapy, therapy with cytotoxic drugs, which are able to kill cancer cells. The other treatments ways are watchful waiting, targeted therapy, biological therapy, radiation therapy, stem cell transplant and immunotherapy, which involves using monoclonal antibodies, as cytokines.. There is no really role for surgery. Leukemia does not belong to the most common cancers. It represents 3% of the almost seven million deaths due to cancer in the United States that year. Among children, about one-third childhood cancer is leukemia. The most common type of leukemia in children is acute lymphoblastic leuk p pemia. Among adults the acute leukemias and the chronic leukemias occur with the same frequency.
Ball, E. D. (2008). 100 Questions & Answers About Leukemia. Jones and Bartlett Publishers. Lerner, A. W. (2009). Leukemia. Greenhaven Press.
Markle, S. (2011). Leukemia : True Survival Stories . Minneapolis: Lerner Publications.