Leukemia – Types, Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment

Leukemia is a blood cells cancer caused by functionality error of White Blood Cells or WBCs which started intervening with the other blood cells resulting in cancerous cells develops. There is no sure short prevention to this disease but with the proper treatment of leukemia, it can be cured.

The blood cells in the body are primarily divided into three categories, which are red blood cells (RBCs), white blood cells (WBCs), and platelets. Out of these blood cells, the function of WBCs is to give protection to the body from the attack of fungi, bacteria, foreign cells, and abnormal cells.

However, the problem arises when the WBC fails to work normally and started to divide abnormally into too many cells which crowds out the other blood cells which are normal (red blood cells and platelets). This blood cells cancer may develop in both children and adults, however, in the cases of adults patients of leukemia men are the greater victim than the women.

Types of Leukemia

Leukemia disease is classified into different categories based on different factors which differentiate them with one another. As per the doctors, Leukemia is classified into the following categories.

Progression Rate

Acute Leukemia

In the cases of an acute form of leukemia, the abnormally divided blood cells are immature which unable to function normally. These immature blood cells get multiplied rapidly and turn leukemia to the worsening position. This type of leukemia patient needs aggressive and immediate treatment.

Chronic Leukemia

Chronic leukemia found in many types out of which some produces very less amount of cells and some of them produces too many cells. However, in this type of leukemia, the blood cells are more mature than the acute form of leukemia.

Also, it accumulates or replicates very slowly so it has the capability to function or work normally for a long period of time. Some of the chronic forms of leukemia doesn’t develop its signs or symptoms even for a year

Based on the Affected White Blood Cells Type

treatment of leukemia

Lymphocytic Leukemia

Lymphocytic leukemia affects the lymphoid cells which form the lymphatic tissue. These tissues build up the body’s immunity power which gets hampered due to the growth of these bacteria.

Myelogenous Leukemia

Myelogenous Leukemia affects myeloid cells. These cells give rise to all type of blood cells producing cells, including red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.

Major Types of Leukemia

Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL)

Acute lymphocytic leukemia is a fatal form of leukemia which mostly occurs in children among all other types of cancer. It is also known as acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Though this type of cancer was incurables before few decades, however, now it is well curable and children diagnosed with it are recovered fully after the treatment.

Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL)

The Chronic lymphocytic leukemia is very much similar to the lymphomas so its treatment procedure is the same. This type of leukemia is very common in adults who often diagnosed before developing any symptoms.

Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)

Though the Acute myeloid leukemia is mostly recognized as childhood cancer however it is very common in adults. This is a fatal form of leukemia cancer which needed aggressive treatment immediately. Patients often needed to be hospitalized in the very initial few weeks of treatment.

This type of leukemia has many types which are different from one another in many ways, including prognosis too. One of its subtype i.e. Acute promyelocytic leukemia is cured with a specific medication. Moreover, this type of AML cancer has the most effective prognosis.

Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML)

Chronic myeloid leukemia is the first type of cancer which was managed to be controlled and cured with the application of target therapies and drugs which prevents the growth of cancerous cells.

With continuous treatment, the CML can be controlled fully over a long period of time. However, both the CML and CLL have the potential to be transformed into acute leukemia in time.

Others

Apart from the above mentioned common type of leukemia, there are some less common or rare forms of leukemia such as Hairy Cell Leukemia (HCL), Myelodysplastic Syndromes (MDS) and Myeloproliferative Neoplasms (MPN).

Symptoms of Leukemia

Leukemia symptomsIn most of the cases of leukemia, there are no early-stage symptoms develops. However with time following signs or symptoms are seen in this type of cancer.

  • Anemia- When the count of red blood cells decreases in blood then this health condition is known as anemia. In the cases of leukemia cancer diseases, the patient gets affected by anemia which is the first sign of this disease.

This reduces the oxygen level in body and muscles hence the affected person get tired easily, develops pale complexion and have a low level of energy most of the time.

  • Bruising or Bleeding- A patient affected by leukemia may easily develop bruising in the skin with a very light bump. This can form the small mark of discoloration called as petechiae under the skin.

Along with bruising these patients can bleed easily from their nose, gums and even bleeding may appear in urine and stool.

  • Swollen Lymph Nodes- The patient of leukemia may develop abnormal lymphocytes (it forms the lymph nodes together) in their lymph nodes existing in groin, armpits, and throat which increases the size of lymph nodes with time.
  • Infections- As leukemia hampers or reduces the body’s immunity power or infection-fighting cells so anyone affected from this type of blood cancer may easily develop some infections such as throat soreness, skin rashes, low-grade fever, mouth sores, and bronchial pneumonia.
  • Weakness and Fatigue- The person affected from leukemia get weaker and suffers from discomforts which are quite likely to develop due to weakness in the body such as weight loss, fatigue feeling; long-lasting fever accompanied by night time sweating, loss of appetite and left lower ribs discomfort.

Causes of Leukemia

  • Blood Cells Damaging- When particular blood cells get damaged in the bone morrow it becomes unable to function properly. This condition is called mutation which primarily happens with white blood cells.

As a result of this cell-damaging, the damaged blood cells divides and grows continuously and becomes too many. It accumulates and crowds out the good blood cells. This hampers the growth of good blood cells and affects their functionality which causes leukemia.

  • High Exposure to Radiation or Benzene- Anyone who experiences high doses of radiation or benzene remains at risk to develop leukemia in future as it damages the healthy blood cells. Benzene in generally found in tobacco, unleaded gasoline, and other chemical producing objects.
  • Old History of Radiation or Chemotherapy- People who have a previous history of chemotherapy or radiation therapy for the treatment purposes have the risk to develop leukemia in future.
  • Genetic Disorder- Some genetic disorders such as Fanconi anemia and Down syndrome contains the risk of leukemia disease growth.
  • Genetic Abnormality- People with genetic abnormalities such as Chromosome 22 or Philadelphia chromosome have a greater risk to develop leukemia cancer disease.
  • Previous Family History- Any previous family histories of leukemia such as parents or grandparents who have suffered from the leukemia diseases their children or grand-children have the risk to grow leukemia in their lifespan.

Diagnosis

A specialist doctor will first do a physical examination of the patient and ask about the previous medical history of the patient. Physical examination will be done for checking enlarged spleen and liver.

If the doctor will find that the patients fall in any of the risk criteria for developing leukemia then he will recommend further laboratory tests as only physical examination is not enough to come to any conclusion.

Moreover, they will ask for the symptoms that you are developing in the last few months. If there is any family history of leukemia then that particular person contains greater risk to develop the same cancer disease. However, before starting any treatment measure first following diagnostic tests are the must.

Blood-Test

The blood sample will be taken for the laboratory test to examine if there is a sign of anemia. The blood test will clarify the total blood count to assess whether the count of all cells of blood are in an adequate amount or not.

It will determine the count of Red blood cells (RBC), White blood cells (WBC) and Platelets. The microscopic testing of blood will help to discover whether there is any abnormal appearance of blood cells or not.

Biopsies

If the doctor suspect for the existence leukemia then they will ask for the biopsies or bone marrow test. In this particular test, one small piece of bone marrow will be taken through a long fine needle from the hip area. This small test will clearly identify the type of leukemia and its growth rate.

The bone marrow test of other organs such as the liver and spleen will determine whether these organs are also been affected by leukemia or not.

Staging or Phasing

After the diagnosis of leukemia, its staging will be done by the doctors to determine in which particular stage or phase leukemia falls. This staging process will be based on the count of WBC, appearance, and type of the cancerous cells, etc.

For example the staging of CLL and ALL are done based on the count of white blood cells recognized during the diagnosis process, AML and ALL leukemia are staged on the basis of cells type involved and the appearance of cancerous cells in the microscope test, whereas staging of AML and CML are done on the basis of immature white blood cells or myeloblasts diagnosed in the blood and bone marrow test.

Progression Rate Assessment

After the diagnosis and staging of leukemia, the third step which is taken by the doctors is to determine the progression rate of the cancerous cells. Some tests are needed to be conducted to assess the progression rate of this disease.

Some popular tests which are conducted include imaging tests (X-rays, CT scan, ultrasound), lumbar puncture, cytometry test, and liver functions test.

Treatment

Leukemia is one type of blood disorder which is treated by its specialist doctor known as hematologist-oncologist. Its treatment method or procedure depends on its particular type and the stages in which it currently falls at the time of treatment.

Some of the leukemias grow at a slow pace and don’t develop any symptoms till it gets vast so it doesn’t require any immediate treatment. However, in the cases of a fatal form of leukemia immediate treatment are needed to be provided to the patient. Basically, doctors apply following treatment measures in order to cure leukemia.

Chemotherapy

In the chemotherapy treatment method, doctors prescribe drugs to the patients which kill the cancerous cells existing in blood and bone marrow. As per the specific type of leukemia, either one or different combinations of drugs are given.

Radiation

In the radiation cancer treatment method, high energy radiation or x-rays are applied over the affected area. This kills the leukemia cells and obstructs its further growth. The radiation can be given either on the single body part where a huge amount of cancerous cells exists or it may also be applied all over the body.

Targeted Therapy

In this treatment method, special drugs are given to the patients which block the proteins or genes which is necessary for the growth of cancerous cells of leukemia. Also, it prevents the signal which is needed by the leukemia cells for further growth and division, closes the blood supply to these cells and kills them directly.

The Imatinib (Gleevec) is one type of targeted drug which is used for treating CML.

Biologic Therapy

Biologic therapy is also known as immunotherapy which helps to boost the body’s natural immunity power or self-defense capacity of the body which previously get damaged due to the growth of leukemia cells.

As a result of increased immune system power, it becomes enable to find and attack the cancerous cells on its own. Immune therapy drugs like Interleukins boosts the body’s self-defense power to kill the leukemia cells.

Stem Cell Transplantation

Stem cell transplantation method replaces the damaged leukemia cells existing in bone marrow with the healthy cells which can make blood again. In this treatment method at first high doses of chemotherapy is given for destroying the cancerous cells existing in the bone marrow.

After that new stem cells are placed by infusing through one of the veins of the patient. This further developed into healthy blood cells.

Surgery

If the cancerous cells grow and develop too many and started affecting the nearby organs your doctor can apply the surgery method in order to treat it. For example, an over-crowded spleen which puts pressure on its nearby organs, are removed by the doctors through the surgery method, known as Splenectomy.

Leukemia is a very chronic disease which can hamper the overall health of its patient. So it is very important that once you experience the symptoms of this disease or suspect for it then without further delay contact with the doctor as early stage treatment of leukemia can protect you from the dangers of this severe disease on your health.

View Article Sources

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*