Leukemia, s a cancer present in the blood-forming tissues of the body, especially the bone marrow and lymphatic system. Although in all three types of blood cells: Red Blood Cells (RBC's), White Blood Cells(WBC's) and platelets, but Leukemia generally involves white blood cells.
White blood cells in the body are responsible for fighting infection, thereby strengthening the immunity system of the body. In patients suffering from Leukemia, the bone marrow generates abnormal and dysfunctional white blood cells, which do not deliver the same function as white blood cells do.
Some types of Leukemia can occur more commonly in children, while other forms of Leukemia are more common in adults.
Leukemia is commonly classified on two factors:
● how fast it progresses
● the type of cells which it targets
The first category is divided further into two sub-categories:
● Acute leukemia: In acute leukemia, the blood cells that cause leukemia are immature in nature as their functions are abnormal. The immature blood cells (blasts) rapidly, making Leukemia cancer severe which needs timely treatment.
● Chronic leukemia: There are many conditions that cause different types of Chronic Leukemia. In some conditions, the cell growth may be abnormally high, while in other cases abnormally low. However, Chronic leukemia involves more mature blood cells.
The second type is classified by the type of white blood cell affected:
● Lymphocytic leukemia: This type of leukemia targets the lymphoid cells, also called lymphocytes that form lymphatic tissue which builds the immune system in the body.
● Myelogenous leukemia: This type of leukemia targets the myeloid cells in the body which are responsible to give rise to red blood cells, white blood cells and platelet-producing cells.
There are commonly 4 types of Leukemia which occur in the blood cells. They are:
● Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL): The ALL is the largest occurring type of leukemia that targets young children but can also occur in adults. Rapid growth of immature lymphoid cells in the blood stream cause this type of Leukemia
● Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML): AML is another common type of leukemia which occurs in both children and adults. Due to rapid growth of myeloid cells
● Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL): CLL is another commonly occurring Chronic Leukemia that occurs in the lymphoid cells of adults.
● Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML): This type of leukemia targets adults. A person with CML may have very few symptoms for months or years as this is a slow-growing cancer of lymphoid cells which usually happens in adults over 55-60 years of age.
● Other types: Other types of leukemia also exist, but they are much rarer. These types include hairy cell leukemia, myelodysplastic syndromes and myeloproliferative disorders.
Leukemia symptoms may differ from person to person on the stage of leukemia cancer and its type. Common leukemia signs and symptoms include:
● Fever or chills
● Persistent fatigue and weakness
● Frequent or severe infections
● Drastic weight loss without any effort
● Swollen lymph nodes, enlarged liver or spleen
● Easy bleeding or bruising
● Recurrent nosebleeds
● Tiny red spots in your skin called petechiae
● Excessive sweating, especially at night
● Bone pain or tenderness
● Enlargement of liver or spleen
Leukemia treatment is highly required for a person who has been diagnosed with a Leukemia cancer. Since Leukemia is the cancer of the blood, which is present throughout our body, it essential to kill the cause of cancer, i.e. the abnormal blood cells killing the normal blood cells in the body. There are several options for Leukemia treatment. However, they are chosen according to the stage, age and your overall health condition of the patient. The Leukemia treatment options are:
● Chemotherapy: is the most common form of Leukemia treatment which is done over several weeks via administration of drugs via several kinds of injections to kill the blood cancer cells.
● Biological Therapy: Biological therapy is done by the principle of administering biological drugs that help your immune system to identify and attack leukemia cells.
● Targeted Therapy: includes administering the patient with a number of drugs that will particularly hit the leukemia cancer cells and its constituents. The treatment is usually performed in combination with chemotherapy.
● Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy is a Leukemia treatment that is widely used to treat inoperable tumor cells. Radiation Therapy consists of X-rays or even stronger waves like the Ultra-violet (UV) rays.
In some cases, chemotherapy is coupled with radiation therapy for a more effective Leukemia treatment.
● Stem Cell Transplant: In the stem cell transplant procedure, the affected bone is replaced with healthy bone marrow.
However, before this transplant, the diseased bone marrow needs to be completely destroyed. This is done via high doses of chemotherapy or radiation therapy. After which you are infused with blood-forming stem cells that help to rebuild your bone marrow.
Most of the times, your own healthy stem cells from different part of the body are infused into you, which may not be the case if most of the stem cells in the body are affected. Thus, you may then require a stem cell donor.
It is obviously recommended that the patient opts for Leukemia Treatment as soon as the cancer is diagnosed. This because if treated at later stages, the survival rate significantly drops. The five-year survival rate for Leukemia is usually around 60.6% which may vary according to the condition, stage and the quality of Leukemia treatment received.