What Are The Basics of Leukemia?

How to define leukemia?

Leukemia is a cancer of your blood cells, or blood-forming tissues, including the bone marrow and the lymphatic system.

Leukemia is usually associated with the white blood cells which served as infection fighters. However, the white blood cells of people with leukemia are abnormal, thus can not fight infections, and the increasing number of them affect your major organs.

What are the major types of leukemia?

Depending on how fast the leukemia develops and which blood cells involved, the leukemia can be divided into four major types:

  • Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL): The most common type of leukemia in young children. It can also occur in adults.
  • Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML): The most common type of acute leukemia in adults.
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL): The most common type of chronic leukemia in adults.
  • Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML): This type mainly affects adults.

There are also other rarer types of leukemia, like hairy cell leukemia, myelodysplastic syndromes, myeloproliferative disorders.

What causes leukemia?

A combination of genetic and environmental factors seem to increase the risk of suffering leukemia:

  • Chemotherapy and radiation therapy used to treat other cancers.
  • Smoking: Tobacco smokers are prone to develop leukemia than nonsmokers.
  • Exposure to certain chemicals: such as benzene found in gasoline.
  • Genetic disorders like Down syndrome.
  • Family history of leukemia.

Any symptoms of leukemia?

The symptoms of leukemia are vary from type to type, but the common leukemia symptoms include:

  • Recurrent nosebleeds
  • Excessive sweating, especially at night
  • Swollen lymph nodes, enlarged liver or spleen
  • Weight loss
  • Persistent fatigue, weakness
  • Fever or chills
  • Frequent or severe infections
  • Easy bruising or bleeding
  • Bone pain or tenderness
  • Tiny petechiae in your skin

How to diagnose leukemia?

There are major three types of testing: blooding testing, needle biopsy and bone marrow aspiration.

Blood testing will show whether there are abnormal white cells.

Needle biopsy and bone marrow aspiration from pelvic bone are usually used to confirm the specific types of leukemia. They can test leukemic cells, DNA markers, and chromosome changes in the bone marrow.

What are the treatments of leukemia?

The treatments of leukemia also vary from type to type, the major options are:

  • Chemotherapy: Use drugs to kill cancer cells.
  • Blood and platelet transfusions: Help acute leukemia patients prevent or stop bleeding.
  • Biological therapy or immunotherapy: Help immune system recognize and attack leukemia cells.
  • Radiation therapy: Use high-energy X-rays to kill leukemia cells or stop their growth.
  • Targeted therapy: Use drugs to block specific genes or proteins cancer cells need.
  • Stem cell transplant: Patients with AML may require it to replace leukemia cells with new ones that can make blood.
  • Splenectomy: Stop it pressing on nearby organs.

What are the medication options for leukemia?

  • Imatinib (Gleevec) : It attacks the genetic alterations that cause white blood cells to grow out of control.
  • Bosutinib
  • Dasatinib: First line therapy of chronic phase CML.
  • Nilotinib
  • Ponatinib
  • Interleukins and interferon: Boost you body’s natural defense against leukemia.

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* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.