What is leukemia and leukemia treatment?
We come across a lot of medical terms when we try finding solutions for illness on the internet, though most of the time we mistake or precisely get confused between diseases. We usually are not comfortable with medical terms of conditions, for example; we will quickly understand blood cancer, but we aren’t familiar with the word “leukemia” well this is a medical term for blood or bone marrow cancer. Let’s understand in details about what causes leukemia, sign and symptoms of leukemia and the types of leukemia treatments.
Table of contents
1. What to know about leukemia?
3. Risk factors
4. Classification and its type
What to know about leukemia?
Leukemia is termed as blood cancer or bone marrow cancer. The function of the bone marrow is to form blood cells. Leukemia develops due to difficulties in blood cell production.
It is mainly caused by the increment in the amounts of the leukocytes or white blood cells. Leukocytes are important for the immune system as it protects our body from any harmful foreign agent. An abnormal increase in the number of leukocytes than normal does not function properly.
Leukemia is the most common blood cancer in children. However, Leukemia can be seen in people ages above 55 years, but this type of cancer is also common in those who are aged under 15 years.
According to The National Cancer Institute in 2019, 61,780 people can be affected by leukemia. They too predicted that more than 22,000 people might die out of this disease.
Studies suggest 8 lakh new cases of cancer in India. It has also been studied that India ranks 3rd highest in reported cases of leukemia after US and China.
Chronic leukemia is likely to get severe over some time, but acute leukemia develops rapidly and worsens quickly. There are many types of leukemia, but the best possible course of treatment and survival chance of that person depends solely upon which type of leukemia they have.
There are three types of blood cells, RBC (Red blood cells), WBC (White blood cells) and Platelets. All these cells are formed in the bone marrow. RBC supply oxygen, Platelet helps in the clotting of blood and WBC helps fight infection.
It is important to have a normal WBC count to function properly. An abnormal increase in WBCs does not function properly as the normal cells do. Leukemia is caused by an abnormal increase in WBC counts. The normal range of WBC is about 4500 to 11000 cells per microliters of blood.
When DNA of developing blood cells, mainly white blood cells, is damaged, that’s when leukemia develops. It causes blood cells to grow and divide uncontrollably. Dying of healthy blood cells and replacement of them occurs in the bone marrow, but these abnormal blood cells do not die naturally in their life cycle, Instead, they build up and occupy more space.
As bone marrow produces cancer cells which begins to overcrowd the blood, stopping the healthy white blood cells from working or growing naturally. And in the end, cancerous cells outgrow the number of healthy cells in the body. This is how leukemia is caused.
There’s a massive range of risk factors in leukemia. Few of these risks have more significant links to leukemia than others:
Artificial ionizing radiation: This possibly is radiation therapy for previous kinds of cancer. But this has more risk factors than any other types of leukemia
Viruses: T-lymphotropic virus (HTLV-1) in human has links to leukemia.
Previous treatment of cancer with chemotherapy: Leukemia can easily affect a person if he/she had undergone through chemotherapy in his/her previous treatment for cancer.
Exposure to chemicals: Benzenes and formaldehyde are known chemical that causes cancer. Benzene is used by manufacturers of cleaning chemicals and hair dyes. It is also found in detergents plastics, rubber, etc. On the other hand, Formaldehyde is found in shampoos, shops and cleaning products.
Genetic conditions: The risk of acute lymphocytic leukemia increases by 2-3% in children with down syndromes having a third copy of chromosomes 21, then those children without the syndromes.
Li- Fraumeni syndrome is yet another genetic condition with link to leukemia, which causes a change in the TP53 gene.
Family history: Family history of leukemia can also lead to the risk of leukemia, specific inherited problems in immune conditions increase the risk of both severe forms of leukemia. These includes:
- Bloom syndrome
- Watchman-Diamond syndrome
- Walkout-Aldrich syndrome
- Ataxia syndrome
Classification and its type
The classification of leukemia is based on how quickly it worsens and by the cells involved. Based on these factors, leukemia is classified into four categories that include:
1. Chronic leukemia: Progression in chronic leukemia happens slowly, more production of mature and healthy cells can occur in this type of leukemia. A person with chronic leukemia does not experience any symptoms for years. Chronic leukemia is most commonly seen in adults.
2. Acute leukemia: Progression in acute leukemia happens quickly, the cells multiply rapidly. A person with acute leukemia starts to show symptoms soon after the formation of leukemia cells. Acute leukemia is common in children.
3. Lymphocytic leukemia: A lymphocytic cells that develop into white blood cells play a key role in the immune system. In lymphocytic leukemia, cancerous changes affect the type of bone marrow that makes lymphocytes. Lymphocytic leukemia develops from a lymphoid cell line. Lymphoid cells develop into lymphocytes and natural killer cells
4. Myelogenous or myeloid leukemia: Myelogenous leukemia occurs when changes take place in the bone marrow cells that produce blood cells, rather than affecting blood cells. This type of leukemia develops from a myeloid cell line. Myeloid cells develop into red blood cells, white blood cells (neutrophils, eosinophil and basophils), and platelets.
There are four main types of leukemia:
AML (Acute Myeloid Leukemia): Mostly common in adults over 65 years of age.
ALL (Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia): Common in children and young adults up to 39 years of age.
CML (Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia): Common in older adults over 65 years of age.
CLL (Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia): Most common chronic leukemia in adults over 65 years of age.
The symptoms of leukemia vary according to the types of leukemia. The most common signs and symptoms of leukemia include:
- Poor blood clotting
- Pale skin
- Weakness or fatigue
- Easy bleeding
- Frequent infections
- Weight lose
- Bone pain
- Night sweats
- Enlarged liver or spleen
- Swollen lymph nodes in neck and armpits
Examination and family medical history is checked. Doctors check for signs of anemia or enlarged liver or spleen. A blood sample is likely to be taken. If after all this necessary procedure, if the doctor suspects leukemia they advise for a bone marrow test. These few things help in identifying the types of leukemia.
Diagnosis of leukemia involves:
- Complete blood count
- Blood cell examination
- Bone marrow biopsy
- Imaging test like CT-Scan, or MRI
Leukemia treatments depend upon the types of leukemia, age, and overall health status. The most recommended treatment of leukemia is chemotherapy, but if treated in the early stage, the chances of achieving remission are higher.
Types of leukemia treatment include:
- Targeted therapy
- Interferon therapy
- Radiation therapy
- Stem cell (Bone marrow)transplantation
If any type of leukemia presents in the body, one can achieve complete remission through the advancement of technology and the progression of medical research. The possibility of treatment increases if diagnosed early. Although health monitoring and bone marrow tests or blood tests are required even after remission to keep a check on the regaining of cancer.
Earlier the diagnosis of leukemia, better the chances of recovery. So it is important to notice the symptoms which you experience in your day to day life. Consulting doctors at the early onset of any symptoms increases the chance of proper diagnosis, effective treatment and fast recovery
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