May 04, 2016 1547
What is leukemia?
It is a disease which affects the human body’s bone marrow and its blood building system by a chaotic multiplication of a certain kind of white blood cells also called leucocytes. Those damaged and undeveloped leucocytes, produced within the bone marrow, get into the blood and settle in different regions and organs of the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is an important part of the body’s immune system. Usually leucocytes are involved and responsible for fighting pathogens which enter our body. By the suppression of fully developed white blood cells, the body’s immune system is prevented from working appropriately and might not be able to fight a simple infection anymore.
Due to their uncontrolled multiplication, the immature, non-functioning white blood cells (leucocytes) replace the bone marrows normal blood cells. This process leads to a significant lack of blood platelets, which are eminently important for the blood clotting process. But not only is the amount of blood platelets lacking, the amount of red blood cells is deficient as well and thereby leukemia patients are often affected by anaemia as well.
What are the different types of leukemia?
Blood cancer can be divided in a variety of groups. Depending on the disease’s progress, it can be distinguished into acute or chronic leukemia.
- Acute leukemia is characterized by its rapidly increasing number of immature blood cells. Usually treatment is required immediately. This type is the most common form of blood cancer in children.
- Chronic Leukemia typically takes months or years to progress and is characterized by an excessive build-up of relatively mature white blood cells. Often this type is monitored for some time to ensure an effective therapy and it mostly occurs in older people.
A further classification can be made according to the affected blood cells. This divides leukemia into lymphocytic and myelogenous leukemia
- Myelogenous leukemia: The abnormal and cancerous change originates in a type of marrow cell, which than will built red and white blood cells and blood platelets.
- Lymphocytic leukemia: The abnormal and cancerous change originates in a type of marrow cell, which then will build lymphocytes, which play a significant role in fighting infections.
Usually the division of those types combines the acute and chronic leukemia with the myelogenous and lymphocytic type. That leads to the four main types of the disease.
- Acute lymphoblastic (ALL)
- Chronic lymphocytic (CLL)
- Acute myelogenous (AML)
- Chronic myelogenous (CML)
What are the symptoms of Leukemia?
- Abnormal paleness
- Weight loss
- Shortness of breath
- Easy bruising
- Repeated infections
- Bone pain
- Abdominal pain
- Skin irritations or rashes
What causes leukemia?
Doctors and scientist are still carry on research to get information about what causes blood cancer. The cause for most cases of leukemia are unknown, but there are various risk factors which are increasing the probability of getting leukemia.
- Males are at greater risk than females
- Increasing age
- Genetic diseases, such as Down syndrome
- Acquired diseases, such as Hodgkin's disease
- First degree relative with leukemia
- Excessive exposure to ionizing radiation
- Chemical exposure (benzene)
- Certain drugs
- Chromosomal abnormalities
- Cigarette smoking
What does the treatment of leukemia look like?
Treating blood cancer is everything but an easy endeavour. The disease is extremely complex and a lot of different factors must be taken into account when designing a treatment plan. The treatment usually depends on the certain type of leukemia and its different characteristics like extent of the disease, whether it was treated before, age and general health condition of the patient and condition of the leukemic cells.
There are a diverse amount of treatment and therapy approaches on leukemia, but this article will only focus on drug therapies and surgeries.
Some of the drug therapies used to treat the disease include the following:
- Radiation therapy – high energy rays are used to kill cancer cells and prevent them from growing.
- Chemotherapy – usage of drugs to kill cancer cells.
- Steroids – suppression of muscle inflammation and reduction of the immune system’s activities
- Bone marrow transplantation – cancerous bone marrow will be destroyed with high doses of anticancer drugs or radiation, and replaced with healthy bone marrow afterwards.
- Biological therapy – stimulates or restores the immune system's ability to fight infection and disease.
Surgeries may include:
- Lumbar puncture
- Bone marrow transplant
- Splenectomy (removal of the spleen)
- Stem cell transplantation
In general it applies that the earlier a cancer disease is detected, the better it can be treated. Therefore it is indispensable to know whether your body is in a good and healthy condition or not. Our HealthScreening gives you all the necessary information you need and you can lay a solid ground for a healthy and better future of yourself. Act now, before it is too late.
by Gerrit E.
A well-travelled German, always on the run to explore the meanings of life. View all articles by Gerrit E..