Leukemia is a blood disease in which the bone marrow produces abnormal white blood cells (leukemic blast cells or leukemia cells). These cells divide, reproducing themselves, which causes a proliferation of altered cells that do not die when they age. Hence, they accumulate and displace normal cells. In this way, healthy cells are reduced, with the consequent problems of oxygen transport to the tissues, the cure of infections, or the control of hemorrhages. The fact that immature and abnormal cells increase in the blood makes leukemia considered a type of blood cancer.
There are several types of leukemia, such as acute myeloid leukemia, Chronic myeloid leukemia, acute lymphocytic leukemia, and Chronic lymphocytic leukemia.
Prognosis Of The Disease
The prognosis of leukemia varies depending on the type of leukemia and the patient’s age. In general, it is considered a serious disease. Thus, young children diagnosed with acute lymphatic leukemia and patients with acute myeloid leukemia have a good recovery diagnosis. Patients older than 50 may need chemotherapy to get rid of the disease.
On the other hand, chronic leukemia cannot be completely cured but progresses slowly and can be treated to stop its progress. The prognosis for this disease is worse in severely anemic patients. In many cases, a bone marrow transplant is the only chance of survival.
Symptoms Of Leukemia
The symptoms of leukemia differ depending on the type of leukemia. Thus, the most frequent are:
Acute Myeloid Leukemia
It causes tiredness, appetite and weight loss, fever, and night sweats.
Chronic Myeloid Leukemia
It causes weakness, sweating for no apparent reason, loss of appetite and weight, and fever.
Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia
This leukemia causes feeling dizzy, weak, and tired, shortness of breath, recurrent infections, easy bruising, fever, and frequent bleeding from the nose and gums.
Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia
It also presents weakness, tiredness, weight loss, fever, night sweats, enlarged lymph nodes, and abdominal pain.
In addition, other symptoms of leukemia include:
- Bone pain due to the multiplication of leukemia cells in the bone system.
- Anemia is accompanied by paleness, tiredness, and poor exercise tolerance due to a decrease in red blood cells.
- Spots on the skin or petechiae and sporadic hemorrhages as a result of the reduction in the number of platelets
Causes Of Leukemia
Normally we cannot establish a specific cause for leukemia. However, there are several risk factors that we can consider causes:
- A previous history of other cancers and the fact that having received chemotherapy or radiotherapy can cause cellular alterations that lead to secondary leukemia.
- Genetic disorders, such as Down syndrome, are a cause increase in the chance of leukemia.
- They are exposed to toxic agents (environmental, professional, or associated) or toxic habits such as smoking.
- Family history, in some very specific cases.
Diagnosis Of Leukemia
The diagnosis of Leukemia can be made up of three phases, which are carried out as soon as the symptoms begin:
- First, a physical examination is performed. The doctor will assess the paleness of the skin, the swelling of the lymph nodes, or the spleen and liver volume.
- If irregularities are found, a blood test is done to determine if there are white blood cells, red blood cells, or platelets that contain abnormal levels.
- To further determine the diagnosis, a bone marrow test may be performed, which is done by removing a small sample of the hip bone with a fine needle.
Treatment choices will depend on the type of leukemia a person has, their age, and their general health. The main treatment for leukemia is chemotherapy. A cancer care team will tailor chemotherapy for each type of leukemia.
If treatment begins early, a person’s chance of remission is greater. Types of treatment include:
Suppose you have slower-growing leukemias, such as chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). In that case, you may not be actively treated by a doctor.
A doctor administers medication intravenously (IV), either through a drip or a needle. These aim to attack and kill cancer cells. However, they can also destroy non-cancerous cells and cause serious side effects, including hair loss, weight loss, and nausea.
Chemotherapy is the main treatment for AML. Sometimes doctors may suggest a bone marrow transplant.
One of the treatment types uses tyrosine kinase inhibitors that target cancer cells without impacting other cells. It reduces the risk of side effects. Examples include imatinib, dasatinib, and nilotinib.
Many people with CML have a genetic mutation that responds to imatinib. One study found that people who received imatinib treatment had a 5-year survival rate of about 90 percent.
This treatment performs in a similar way to substances that are produced naturally by the immune system. It slows and eventually stops the growth and spread of leukemia cells. However, this treatment can lead to serious side effects in patients.
In people with specific types of leukemia, such as ALL, doctors suggest radiation therapy to eliminate bone marrow tissue before a transplant.
Surgery often involves removing the spleen, but this relies on the type of leukemia a person has.
Stem Cell Transplant
In this procedure, a cancer care team eliminates the existing bone marrow with chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or both. It then infuses new stem cells into the bone marrow to create non-cancerous blood cells.
This procedure can be productive in treating CML. Younger people with leukemia are more possibly to have a successful transplant than older adults.
The stance for people with leukemia relies on the type they have.
Thanks to medical advances, people can now achieve complete remission through treatment. Remission means there are no more signs or symptoms of cancer in a person.
When people achieve remission, they will still need to be monitored and may need to undergo blood and bone marrow tests. Doctors must do these tests to make sure cancer has not come back.
Your doctor may reduce the frequency of tests if leukemia doesn’t return over time.