Leukemia is the type of cancer originating in the tissue which is responsible for the formation of blood cells. Leukemia affects the normal functioning of the bone marrow and lymphatic system.
There are many different forms of leukemia. Certain type of Leukemia is more prominent in children and some in adults. Leukemia generally affects the normal cell cycle of white blood cells, which are the natural protectors of the body that aids the body to fight infections. However, in leukemia patients, the bone marrow develops an overabundance of aberrant white blood cells that do not function correctly.
What are the causes of Leukemia?
The precise causes of leukemia are unknown to scientists. It appears to be the result of a mix of hereditary and environmental influences. In general, leukemia is thought to develop when the genetic material (DNA) of blood cells’ undergoes changes (mutations). The DNA of a cell includes sets of information that are responsible for cell activities. Normally, the cell’s DNA directs the growth rate and the time when they had to die. The mutations of the DNA caused due to leukemia disrupt the natural cycle and allow the cells to grow and divide without any regulation. When this happens, the production of blood cells spirals out of control. Over time these cancerous cells start to dominate over the healthy ones and hence resulting in a reduction in the number of healthy white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets, and causing leukemia symptoms.
Classifications and types of Leukemia
The pace with which leukemia progresses and the sort of cells involved are used to categorize Leukemia. The first categorization is based on how quickly leukemia progresses:
– Acute leukemia: The abnormal blood cells in acute leukemia multiply quickly, causing the disease to worsen rapidly. Acute leukemia needs prompt and intensive therapy.
– Chronic leukemia: Chronic leukemias are of different types in which some induce the production of too many cells, while others cause the production of too few cells. More developed blood cells are involved in chronic leukemia which replicates at a slower rate functioning normally for a short period of time. Some types of chronic leukemia have no symptoms which make them remain undetected or undiagnosed for years.
The second type of classification is based on the type of white blood cell that is affected:
– Lymphocytic leukemia: This type of leukemia affects lymphocytes, which are responsible for the formation of lymphatic tissue which are the building blocks of the immune system.
– Myelogenous leukemia: Myeloid cells are the group of cells that produce red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. This type of leukemia interferes with the normal functionality of myeloid cells.
The following are the most common types of leukemia:
– Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL): This type of leukemia generally affects children under the age of five. Adults can also be affected by ALL.
– Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML): AML is a type of leukemia that is quite common. It affects both children and adults.
– CLL (chronic lymphocytic leukemia) (CLL): This type of leukemia is the most common type of leukemia found in adults. This type of leukemia can cause one to feel fine and doesn’t even require any medical attention for years until conditions start to become serious.
– Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML): Adults are the most commonly affected by this type of leukemia. In the case of CML, the patient may experience no symptoms for years, until the condition starts to aggravate.
Symptoms of Leukemia
The symptoms of leukemia are different for different types of leukemias, however. The following are common leukemia signs and symptoms regardless of the type:
– Chills or fever
– Persistent Fatigue and weakness
– Infections that are frequent or severe
– Losing weight without making an effort
– Swelling in lymph nodes
– Enlargement of liver or spleen
– Easy bruising or bleeding
– Repeated nosebleeds
– Bone discomfort or soreness
– Excessive perspiration, especially at night
Many variables influence how one is treated for leukemia. Leukemia treatment options are determined by the doctor after observing the age, health, and type of leukemia one has, and if it made its way to other areas of the body, especially the central nervous system.
The following are some of the most common treatments for leukemia:
– Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is the most commonly used treatment for leukemia. Drugs used for chemotherapy usually comprise chemicals. One may be given a combination of different drugs or a single drug depending on the type of leukemia. These medications can be taken as pills or through injection.
– Targeted Drug Therapy: Targeted drug treatments target specific abnormalities found in cancer cells. Cancer cells can be killed by targeted drug treatments that block these abnormalities.
– Radiotherapy: Radiation therapy involves the use of high-energy waves like X Rays in order to inflict damage to the cells and stop the growth of leukemia cells. One may be given targeted radiation in areas where leukemia cells have gathered in large amounts, or one may be given radiation all over the body. Radiotherapy is also used as a method to prepare the body for a bone marrow transplant.
– Bone marrow transplant: A stem cell transplant, commonly known as a bone marrow transplant, aims to restore healthy stem cells by replacing diseased bone marrow with leukemia-free stem cells that rebuild healthy bone marrow. One is given an extremely high amount of chemo or radiotherapy prior to a bone marrow transplant to destroy the diseased bone marrow. Then the person is infused with blood-forming stem cells, which will aid in the rebuilding of the bone marrow.