- Leukemia is a kind of cancer in which the bone marrow produces abnormal white blood cells.
- Diagnosis of leukemia can be through physical exams, blood tests, bone marrow biopsy, and spinal tap.
- The treatment for leukemia can include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and stem transplant.
How does leukemia form?
The bone marrow produces blood cells, including the white blood cells or leukocytes. Leukemia happens when there are too many white blood cells produced that they overcrowd the red blood cells and platelets needed by the body to be healthy. The extra white blood cells function abnormally and keep on growing and dividing uncontrollably.
What causes leukemia?
The exact cause of why leukemia happens is not yet clearly known. Doctors explain that its development can be affected by several risk factors such as family history, exposure to certain chemicals or radiation, genetic disorders, previous cancer treatment, and smoking.
What are the types of leukemia?
Leukemia can be classified generally into acute and chronic. It will depend on how quickly leukemia develops and worsens. When most abnormal white blood cells don’t grow and function normally, it is considered acute leukemia. Leukemia is classified as chronic when there are undeveloped cells, but some cells can still function normally. Acute leukemia can worsen more quickly than chronic leukemia.
Leukemia can also be grouped according to what cells are affected.
Lymphocytic leukemia involves the lymphocytes, which is a kind of white blood cell. Myelogenous leukemia involves red blood cells and platelets.
Leukemia can be classified further into four main kinds, namely:
- Acute lymphocytic leukemia – It mostly affects children and affects the central nervous system and lymph nodes.
- Chronic lymphocytic leukemia – It mostly affects adults, and sometimes treatment is not needed if the condition is stable.
- Acute myelogenous leukemia – It affects both children and adults alike.
- Chronic myelogenous leukemia – Adults aged 65 and older are most at risk for this kind of leukemia. They will not show symptoms, and the condition might only be diagnosed after a blood test.
How Is Leukemia Diagnosed?
- Physical examination. A pale skin, swollen lymph nodes, enlarged liver, and spleen can indicate signs of leukemia.
- Blood tests. Doctors can examine a sample of your blood to determine if the levels of red or white blood cells are abnormal.
- Bone marrow test. This procedure involves removing a sample of bone marrow for testing the presence of leukemia cells. With this test, doctors can evaluate the kind and severity of your leukemia, and he can determine the possible treatment.
- Spinal Tap. A sample of fluid from your spinal cord will be extracted to determine the extent to which leukemia has spread.
What are the treatment options for leukemia?
There are several ways to treat leukemia. Treatment will depend on the patient’s age and health and the type and severity of leukemia.
Chemotherapy makes use of drugs or chemicals to kill the cancer cells. The patient can take the drugs through a pill, inject it into a vein, or the fluid around the spinal cord.
Immunotherapy boosts the immune system to attack the cells by using interferon and interleukin drugs.
Radiation uses high energy X-rays beams to prevent the growth of cancer cells.
Stem Cell Transplant is a treatment to replace the cancer cells with new healthy functioning cells. The new stem cells can come from your own body or donors.
Targeted therapy uses drugs to stop the signals that cancer cells receive to divide and grow.