Causes, Symptoms, and Management
Leukemia is also recognized as cancer of the bone marrow or cancer of the blood. This kind of cancer develops when there is an abnormality in the production of blood cells. This abnormality affects the white blood cells, otherwise known as leukocytes. According to research, leukemia is a common kind of cancer amongst young adults of ages 15 and above. There are different types of leukemia, all of which are grouped under acute and chronic. Chronic leukemia develops slowly and gets worse with time, but acute leukemia, on the other hand, develops rapidly and worsens quickly.
Some of these various kinds of leukemia are common in children, while others are common in young adults and full-grown adults.
Leukemia happens when the bone marrow produces strange white blood cells in excess amounts. Leukemia treatment is complicated and complex, depending on the kind of leukemia.
Leukemia types have been categorized into four groups. The following are the different types of leukemia that exist;
Acute and Chronic
The development process of acute leukemia can be rapid as a result of the quick production of malfunctioning white blood cells from the bone marrow. While chronic leukemia, on the other hand, develops slowly without the unnecessary speed of producing less functional white blood cells. In chronic leukemia, white blood cells mature a little bit more than the ones produced in acute leukemia.
Acute leukemia overrides healthy blood cells faster than chronic leukemia does.
Lymphocytic and Myelogenous
Lymphocytic is an immune system white blood cell. When cancerous compounds affect the immune system and the white blood cells, then lymphocytic leukemia sets in. On the other hand, myelogenous leukemia occurs when cancerous changes occur in the bone marrow rather than with the blood cells.
Other subtypes are;
- Acute lymphocytic leukemia; This leukemia can affect people from any age range. However, it is more common in children of ages 5 and below than it is in adults.
- Chronic lymphocytic leukemia: Naturally, younger adults get infected with this kind of leukemia as well. However, research has unraveled that it is more common in older adults of ages 55 and above than it is among young adults.
- Acute myelogenous leukemia; This cancer, according to studies, is more rampant in women than in men. Though it seems to be rare, it exists and develops in both young and old adults, especially the male folk.
- Chronic myelogenous; It is rare in children. The majority of the world’s population that have chronic myelogenous leukemia are adults.
The major cause of leukemia is the abnormal production and functioning of the white blood cells. It occurs when a serious damaged results due to the DNA of developing blood cells. This damage makes the malfunctioning cells grow rapidly in number and divide without control. Through this process, healthy blood cells begin to die, and the faulty and harmful ones begin to replace them. These invading cells rarely die; instead, they develop more and take control of the whole body. In addition, the bone marrow begins to produce these faulty and cancerous blood cells that overcrowd the body kill the healthy white blood cells, and overtake the whole blood production process, thereby outnumbering the healthy cells in the body.
People who have experienced radiation therapy as a result of one cancer or the other have high chances of developing leukemia.
Some viruses have been identified to be risk factors for leukemia. Once a person is infected with such viruses, the person’s chances of suffering from leukemia increase. One of these numerous leukemia viruses is the human T-lymphotropic virus (HTLV-1)
People who underwent chemotherapy for certain kinds of cancer may develop leukemia in the future.
Exposure to compounds like benzene can heighten one’s tendencies of developing leukemia. Benzene is a solvent used by manufacturers for the production of dyes and cleaning agents.
Children who have down syndrome have higher risks of developing leukemia than children who are not.
When a direct family member suffers from leukemia, there are 2 in 10 chances that you would suffer the same fate.
- Inherited immune system issues can also lead to the production of faulty red blood cells, which automatically means the person would, at some point in their life, develop leukemia. Some of these inherited immune system problems include;
- Schwachman-Diamond syndrome
- Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome
- Bloom syndrome
- Immune System Suppression
The suppression of the immune system can occur as a result of many factors. When the immune system is suppressed, there is a high tendency that a child develops childhood leukemia. This immune suppression is done sometimes deliberately, especially in cases of organ transplants. In order for the immune system to agree with the newly transplanted organ, the immune is suppressed.
Other risk factors of leukemia, though without complete evidence as of now, include;
- Exposure to electromagnetic fields
- Exposure to harmful chemicals
- Dye application on the hair
When you notice any of these symptoms, you are likely developing leukemia slowly. Visit your doctor if you notice any of these symptoms. The following are the symptoms of leukemia;
When cancerous cells kill the healthy cells, the amount of hemoglobin in the blood drops. The duty of hemoglobin in the body is the adequate transportation of iron throughout the body. When the blood lacks enough iron, breathing becomes difficult, and the skin begins to turn pale.
When blood refuses to clothe fast to aid in healing after a wound, it is suspected that something is not right with your blood. One symptom of leukemia is poor blood clotting. This symptom causes the skin to become pale with purple spots scattered all over it, which is an indication that the blood is losing its clotting strength rapidly.
When infections become too frequent, it points to one fact; the immune system is down, or the white blood cells that attack infections, just like the immune system, is faulty. When either of these-immune systems or white blood cells being to have issues, an infection becomes frequent and constant because there are not agents to fight against them in the body. This can even lead to the confusion of the immune system, such that it begins to attack friendly body cells.
Constant night sweating
Red or purple spots on the skin
Spleen and liver enlargement
Other symptoms of leukemia include;
Weight loss may be as a result of swollen spleen or liver, such that you feel full and then eat little. Swollen spleen or liver means that the cancerous cells have found their way into the central nervous system.
Though all these symptoms can be the onset of other illnesses. However, it is important to report such symptoms to a Doctor.
Leukemia sometimes spread to other organs of the body like;
- Gastrointestinal tract
- Avoid smoke
- Avoid exposing yourself to chemicals like benzene and formaldehyde.
- Quit smoking
- Practice safe sex
- Don’t share personal belongings and sharp objects.
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Adopt a healthy diet
- Engage in physical exercises
Can it Be Cured?
The treatment of leukemia is complex and can only be done by hematologist-oncologist; Doctors who are specialized in the treatment of blood illnesses. Its treatment depends on the stage and type of leukemia and can be done by one or more of the following methods.
- Stem cell transplant; involves the replacement of the faulty bone marrow with a healthy one. This process can also be called bone marrow transplant.
- Chemotherapy; suggests the use of drugs and chemicals to kill the cancerous cell and ensure the triumph of the dying healthy cells.
- Biological therapy; involves the use of natural cells to help the immune system identify and combat cancer cells.
- Radiation therapy; this therapy inhibits the growth of cancer cells through high radiation energy directed towards the affected area of the body.
- Targeted therapy; targeted therapy entails the use of drugs and medications to attack the cancerous cells at their weak points.
In conclusion, leukemia, also known as bone marrow or blood cancer, can affect anybody at any point in their lifetime. It is of different types, each with its unique mode of attack. A number of factors have been identified as the causal agents of leukemia, and these factors are expected to be avoided as much as possible.
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