Leukemia is cancer of the blood and bone marrow (the soft material in the center of most bones). Cancer starts in blood-forming tissue, such as the bone marrow, and causes large numbers of abnormal blood cells; these produced cells and enter the bloodstream. In a person with disease, the bone marrow produces abnormal white blood cells that are called leukemia cells and leukemic blast cells. The abnormal cells can’t produce normal white blood cells. Leukemia cells divide to produce copies of themselves. The copies divide again and again, producing more and more leukemia cells. Unlike normal blood cells, leukemia cells don’t die when they become old or damaged. Because they don’t die, leukemia cells can build up and crowd out normal blood cells. The low level of normal blood cells can make it harder for the body to get oxygen to the tissues, control bleeding, or fight infections.
Types of Leukemia
Leukemia’s are divided into two major types:-
- Acute (which progresses quickly)
- Chronic (which progresses more slowly)
Four most common types of it are as follows:-
- Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) affects myeloid cells and grows quickly. Leukemic blast cells collect in the bone marrow and blood.
- Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) affects lymphoid cells and grows quickly. Leukemic blast cells usually collect in the bone marrow and blood.
- Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) affects myeloid cells and usually grows slowly at first. Blood tests show an increase in the number of white blood cells. The abnormal blood cells work okay. There may be a small number of leukemic blast cells in the bone marrow.
- Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) affects lymphoid cells and usually grows slowly. Blood tests show an increase in the number of white blood cells. The abnormal cells work almost as well as the normal white blood cells.
Other types of leukemia and related disorders include:-
- Hairy cell leukemia
- Chronic myelomonocytic leukemia (CMML)
- Juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia (JMML)
Risk Factors of Developing Leukemia
- Exposure to Benzene. Chronic exposure to certain chemicals may lead to the development of leukemia. Benzene is a widely used chemical that has been linked to this disease. The greatest risk of exposure to high concentrations of benzene is worksites such as chemical plants and gasoline-related industries. Benzene is also found in tobacco smoke. It is estimated that about half of the benzene exposure in the United States is from cigarette smoke. Smoking is a risk factor for leukemia.
- Disorders and Genetic Diseases. Certain disorders and genetic diseases, such as Down syndrome, may increase the risk of this disease. About 3 out of 10 people with a blood disorder known as myelodysplastic syndrome develop acute myeloid leukemia
- Radiation Exposure. People exposed to very high levels of radiation, such as the atomic bomb blast in Hiroshima, nuclear power plant accidents, also are at risk of developing leukemia.
- Cancer Treatments. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy have been helpful to a lot of people in the treatment of many forms of cancer, and indeed are often lifesaving. These therapies have been linked to the development of second cancers, including leukemia, many years after treatment. The combination of chemotherapy and radiation can significantly increase the risk of leukemia after a first cancer.
Leukemia results in the accumulation of cancer cells in the bone marrow and blood. The presence of large numbers of abnormal cells in the bone marrow can inhibit the marrow from producing normal healthy blood cells. Symptoms caused by bone marrow failure include:-
- Shortness of breath
- Excessive bleeding
- Increased susceptibility to infections
- Cancer cells can infiltrate organs such as the lymph nodes, spleen, and liver leading to swelling.
Other symptoms of Leukemia are as follows:-
- Fever or chills
- Persistent fatigue, weakness
- Frequent or severe infections
- Losing weight without trying
- Swollen lymph nodes, enlarged liver or spleen
- Easy bleeding or bruising
- Recurrent nosebleeds
- Tiny red spots in your skin
- Excessive sweating, especially at night
- Bone pain or tenderness
Following treatments are carried out for leukemia:
- Radiation Therapy
- Stem Cell Transplantation
Leukemia Survival Rate
|Estimated New Cases in 2014||52380|
|% of All New Cancer Cases||3.1%|
|Estimated Deaths in 2014||24090|
|% of All Cancer Deaths||4.1%|
|Percent Surviving 5 Years (2004-2010)||57.2%|