Leukemia: Types, Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

leukemia Leukemia is a well known disease and the symptoms of leukemia affect not just a specific age group but people of all ages. What is Leukemia? Leukemia is cancer of the blood forming organs such as the bone marrow and the lymphatic system. Initially, the disease damages the white blood cells (WBCs), the body's fighters against infection. When a person has Leukemia, the bone marrow produces large amount of immature WBCs incapable of fighting infection.

Until now, the exact cause of Leukemia is still unknown. However, there are conditions that increase the risk of a person to develop leukemia. The risk factors include:

  • Age. It's not true that leukemia is more common in children than adults. In fact 60-70 percent of leukemia cases are diagnosed in people more than 50 years old.
  • Smoking. Cigarette contains a lot of carcinogens that travel in the bloodstream which have been linked to the development of leukemia.
  • Down syndrome. People afflicted with Trisomy 21 or Down syndrome is discovered to have higher risk to having leukemia.
  • Radiation exposure. Radiation is a known carcinogen and one known cancer associated with it is the one affecting the blood and blood forming organs, or leukemia.

Leukemia has four major types namely Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia, Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia, Acute Myelogenous Leukemia, and Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia. The diagnosis of the type of leukemia is made via bone marrow tests, blood tests, and imaging studies. There are several symptoms of leukemia depending upon to which type of leukemia is diagnosed. However, there are still common symptoms of leukemia which include:

  • Fever and chills
  • Weight loss
  • Flu symptoms
  • Recurrent infection
  • Easy bruising
  • Hematomas
  • Petechiae
  • Pain and tenderness around bones
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Abdominal fullness
  • Easy fatigability
  • Epistaxis or nose- bleeding
  • Pallor

Commonly the symptoms of leukemia are not due to the cancer itself but other conditions brought about by the abnormal WBCs. The symptoms of leukemia above are mostly related to infections, anemia, spleenomegaly, hepatomegaly and other conditions.

Symptoms of leukemia are completely debilitating. Choosing the best treatment option or combination of treatment options must be made as early as possible. Treating leukemia and the symptoms of leukemia is done through several methods such as:

  • Chemotherapy. Chemotherapy for leukemia aims to kill the immature WBCs causing the symptoms of leukemia. There are various ways of administering chemotherapeutic drugs. They can be given via IV infusion, and through the mouth.
  • Radiation Therapy. Like other cancers, leukemia can be treated with the use of radiation to kill the cells.
  • Surgery. Spleenectomy is performed to chronic leukemia patients because the spleen is known to be collecting leukemia cells. Spleenomegaly is a life threatening leukemia-related condition
  • Bone marrow transplantation. This procedure is designed to restore bone marrow function as it has been disturbed by chemotherapeutic drugs and radiation therapy. Bone marrows can be transplanted from the patient himself, from other people, and if the patient has a twin, his twin sibling.
  • Interferon therapy. This therapy boosts the patient's immune system as the body is supplied by the proteins released by virus infected cells. They also act by slowing the growth and reproduction of leukemia cells thus slowing the progress of the symptoms of leukemia.

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