Leukemia is cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues, including the bone marrow and the lymphatic system. There are many types of leukemia. Some are more common with children, while others are more suffered by adults. Leukemia cannot be discussed without mentioning the white blood cells. The white blood cells are effective infection fighters — they usually grow and divide in an orderly way as required by the body. However, in people with leukemia, the bone marrow produces abnormal white blood cells which don’t function properly. Treating leukemia can be quite complex, depending on the type, and other factors. We`ll look into this later. Next, we will discuss some symptoms of leukemia.
What are its Symptoms?
The symptoms of leukemia vary, depending on the type. These are some of its common symptoms:
- weight loss
- swollen lymph nodes, enlarged liver or spleen
- easy bruising and bleeding
- habitual nosebleeds
- tiny red spots in the skin
- excessive sweating, especially at night fever
- persistent fatigue
- frequent infections
- bone pain or tenderness
Of course, individual symptoms are not restricted to leukemia, so there should be no reason to worry if some of the symptoms are experienced. And even if it`s leukemia, there still is no reason to worry.
How does Leukemia Form?
Leukemia occurs when some blood cells acquire mutations in their DNA. Some anomalies cause the cells to grow and divide so swiftly. Normal cells die, and they continue to exist. The abnormal cells crowd out healthy blood cells in the bone marrow, leaving fewer healthy white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets.
Classes of Leukemia
Leukemia has two classifications: Its speed of progression and the type of cell involved. We`ll study both.
Classification Based on Speed of Progression
In acute leukemia, the abnormal blood cells are immature blood cells called blasts. They can’t carry out their normal functions, and they multiply rapidly, worsening the situation. Acute leukemia requires strategi and timely treatment.
Chronic leukemia involves more mature blood cells. The blood cells accumulate slowly and function normally for a period of time. Some forms of chronic leukemia may be undiagnosed for years.
Both acute and chronic forms are quite terrible.
Classification Based on Cell Affected
This type of leukemia affects the lymphoid cells (lymphocytes), which form lymphoid or lymphatic tissue. Lymphatic tissue is that which constitutes the immune system.
This is the type of leukemia that affects the myeloid cells. Myeloid cells give rise to red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelet-producing cells.
Types of Leukemia
The major types of leukemia are:
Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL)
ALL is the most common type of leukemia in young children. It can also occur in adults.
Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML)
ALL is the most common type of acute leukemia experienced by adults. It is also experienced by children.
Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL)
CLL, the most common chronic adult leukemia, is one that may be lived with for years without any treatment.
Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML)
This affects adults more. People who experience it may experience few or no symptoms for months or years before getting to the phase in which the leukemia cells grow rapidly.
Other Types of Leukemia
- hairy cell leukemia
- myelodysplastic syndromes
- myeloproliferative disorders
What are its Risk Factors?
Disorders such as down syndrome, are linked with leukemia.
A family History of Leukemia
If members of one`s family have been diagnosed with leukemia, then there is an increased risk of suffering it.
Exposure to Certain Chemicals
Exposure to chemicals such as benzene found in gasoline is linked to an increased risk of some kinds of leukemia.
Previous Cancer Treatment
People who’ve had some types of chemotherapy and radiation therapy for other cancers have a higher risk of developing certain types of leukemia.
Smoking cigarettes increases the risk of acute myelogenous leukemia.
So how does one even know that they suffer leukemia? We will discuss this briefly.
Doctors look for physical signs of leukemia such as swelling of the lymph nodes, pale skin from anemia, enlargement of the liver and spleen, among other symptoms.
With a sample of one`s blood, it can be determined if there are abnormal levels of red or white blood cells or platelets, which are signs of leukemia.
Bone Marrow Test
A procedure to remove a sample of bone marrow from the hip bone may be required. This is done, using a long, thin needle. The sample is then sent to a laboratory to look for leukemia cells.
What about Treatment?
Treating leukemia depends on a number of factors; age and general health are some of these factors. The type of leukemia suffered isn`t left out in the list of factors. Here are some of the treatments:
This is a major form of treating leukemia. It`s a drug treatment that uses chemicals to kill leukemia cells. Depending on the type of leukemia suffered, one may receive a single drug or a combination of drugs. These drugs may come in a pill form, or an injection administered directly into a vein.
Biological therapy involves treatments that enable the immune system to recognize and attack leukemia cells.
Stem Cell Transplant
A stem cell transplant is a procedure that replaces diseased bone marrow with healthy bone marrow.
Before a stem cell transplant is carried out, high doses of chemotherapy or radiation therapy are administered to destroy diseased bone marrow, then there`s an infusion of blood-forming stem cells that help to rebuild the bone marrow.
Targeted therapy uses drugs that attack specific vulnerabilities within the cancer cells.
Radiation therapy uses X-rays or other high-energy beams to damage leukemia cells and hinder their growth.
It may be done in just some parts of the body where there are leukemia cells, or all over.
What to Do when you Have Leukemia
Here are a few things that can be done to better manage this condition:
Speak with Family and Close Friends
Speaking with loved ones and keeping close relationships strong help one deal with leukemia and other health challenges. Friends and family can provide care and emotional support. These go a long way in avoiding the possible trauma that may come with the condition.
Find a Support Group
Make inquiries on support groups in your area. The National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society are some bodies to get closer to. Ways to manage the condition will be learned at such groups, and patients get to meet one another. These are quite helpful.
Take Care of Yourself
Truth be told, the entire process can be overwhelming. You need to take care of yourself. This is the most important thing. Just try to be happy. Do yoga, see movies, feed well, and do all that can make you happy, within safe limits.
You can, to some extent, after reading this, educate anyone suffering from leukemia. You can even handle it better if you experience it. With just some extra knowledge, some of these health conditions may not be much of a problem as they appear. Identifying and interpreting symptoms correctly, for instance, helps one get treatment early, and this is beneficial.