An Overview of Leukemia – The Cancer of Blood Cells

Are you worried about suffering from leukemia? Do you or anyone close in your family has been diagnosed with leukemia recently? If yes, then read this guide to know everything about Leukemia!


Leukemia is a cancer of blood forming tissues and majorly occurs in the lymphatic system and bone marrow.

The bone marrow generates blood cells and when there is a problem in the production of blood cells then this results in Leukemia. Usually, it affects the leukocytes or white blood cells of the body.

Though it mostly occurs in people over 55 years of age, it is also common cancer in people under 15 years age. Leukemia can be active that develops quickly and worsens overtime, but chronic leukemia gets worse over time.

Causes of Leukemia

Leukemia occurs when the DNA of immature blood cells, especially white cells get damaged in some way. This causes the blood cells to divide and grow continuously so that there are numerous such cells.

Overtime, healthy blood cells die and get replaced by new cells that are released in the bone marrow. The abnormal cells in the blood do not diet when they must. As a result, they accumulate and occupy more space.

When more cancerous cells are produced, they stop the growth of healthy white blood cells and normal functioning by crowding out the good blood cells.

Based on the speed of progression and kind of cells involved, leukemia is classified under two categories:

  • Acute Leukemia – Within acute leukemia, the abnormal cells of the blood are immature. They are not able to perform their normal functions and multiply rapidly. As a result, the disease gets worsen. Acute leukemia needs an aggressive and timely cure.
  • Chronic Leukemia – There are different sorts of chronic leukemia. Some of the produce too many cells and some product too few cells. Chronic leukemia involves a higher number of mature blood cells. Such blood cells replicate or collect more slowly and are able to function properly for a period of time. Some sorts of chronic leukemia initially release no early symptoms and can go undiagnosed or unnoticed for years.

Symptoms of Leukemia

The symptoms of Leukemia vary, depending on the kind of leukemia. Some of the common symptoms of leukemia are:

  • Chills or fever
  • Severe or frequent infections
  • Continuous weakness and fatigue
  • Bruising or easy bleeding
  • Enlarged spleen or liver, swollen lymph nodes
  • Tenderness
  • Bone pain
  • Excessive sweating
  • Small red spots in the skin
  • Recurrent nosebleeds
  • Losing weight

Types of Leukemia

The major kinds of leukemia are:

  • CLL or Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia – This is the most common chronic adult leukemia where you may feel well for years without in need of treatment.
  • ALL or Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia – It is the most common sort of leukemia in young children. This form of leukemia can occur in adults as well.
  • CML or Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia – This sort of leukemia mainly occurs in adults. A person suffering from this may have a few or no symptoms for years or months before entering a phase in which the cells of leukemia grow more rapidly.
  • AML or Acute Myelogenous Leukemia – AML is another common form of leukemia that occurs in adults and children. It is the most common sort of leukemia in the adults.
  • Other kinds of Leukemia – Other rarer sorts of leukemia exist, including myeloproliferative disorders, myelodysplastic syndromes, and hairy cell leukemia.

Risk Factors of Leukemia

Some of the factors that may increase the risk of developing some sorts of leukemia are:

  • Genetic Disorders – The genetic abnormalities play a key role in the development of leukemia. Certain genetic disorders, like a Down syndrome, are associated with a high risk of leukemia.
  • Cancer treatment – People who have had certain sorts of radiation therapy and chemotherapy for other types of ailments or cancers have a high risk of developing certain sorts of leukemia.
  • Smoking – Smoking cigarettes boost the risk associated with acute myelogenous leukemia.
  • Family History of Leukemia – If members of the family are diagnosed with leukemia then the risk of this disease may increase.
  • Exposure to certain sorts of chemicals – Exposure to some chemicals, like benzene present in gasoline is used by the chemical industry. It is linked to an increased risk of some sorts of leukemia.

Diagnosis of Leukemia

Doctors may perform certain tests in order to diagnose leukemia. It is possible to find chronic leukemia in a routine blood test, even before the symptoms begin. If this is the case, or if you have seen any symptoms of leukemia, then your doctor will suggest you to undergo through following diagnostic exams:

  1. Physical Examination – Your doctor will search for physical symptoms of leukemia, like pale skin from anemia, enlargement of spleen and liver, swelling of the lymph nodes.
  2. Blood Test – By looking at a blood sample, your doctor can determine whether you have abnormal levels of white or red blood cells or platelets that may suggest leukemia.
  3. Bone Marrow Test – Your doctor would suggest a process to remove a sample of bone marrow from the hipbone. In this case, the bone marrow is removed with the help of a long and thin needle. The sample is then sent to the laboratory to search for leukemia cells. Then certain specialized tests of leukemia cells have revealed certain characteristics that are used to identify the treatment options.

Treatment for Leukemia

The treatment for leukemia is carried on the basis of numerous factors. Your doctor would determine a specific leukemia treatment based on your age and overall health condition, the kind of leukemia you have and the spread of it to other parts of the body, including central nervous system.

Some of the common treatments for leukemia are:

  • Chemotherapy – It is the most common form of treatment for leukemia that uses drug treatment chemicals to kill leukemia cells. The chemotherapy process is carried based on the kind of leukemia you have. This means that you may receive either a single drug or a combination of drugs treatment. The drugs are available in a pill form and are injected directly into the vein.
  • Biological Treatment – The biological treatment works by using treatments that can boost your immune system and help it recognize and attack the leukemia cells.
  • Targeted Treatment – The targeted therapy uses drugs which attack certain vulnerabilities of the cancer cells.
  • Radiation Treatment – Doctors also use radiation therapy in order to cure leukemia. This therapy involves using high-energy beams or X-rays to damage leukemia cells and stop the growth of such cells. The patient is supposed to lie down during the radiation therapy and a big machine moves around him, directing the radiation to the precise points on your body.

The radiation therapy is offered to specific areas of the body with a collection of leukemia cells. If the spread of the cancer is more, then radiation therapy is offered to the whole body. This therapy may also be used for the preparation of stem cell transplant.

  • Stem Cell Transplant – The transplant procedure of stem cell is a process to replace the infected bone marrow with a healthy bone marrow.

Before the transplant of stem cells, the patient receives high doses of radiation therapy or chemotherapy to destroy the infected bone marrow. Then the patient is offered an infusion of blood-forming stem cells that help to rebuild the bone marrow.

It is possible to receive stem cells from a donor or in some situations you may be able to use your own stem cells.

To Sum Up

When you will visit your doctor for the treatment of leukemia, your doctor would ask a number of questions. You need to answer them all properly so that your doctor can address you in the best way. To know in detail about leukemia and possible treatments for this form of cancer you must visit the best cancer hospital in India.

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