Your Guide To All Aspects of Leukemia

When people hear the word leukemia, many often don’t realize that it’s a form of cancer. There are several different types of leukemia, with some being common to children, while others are common in adults. Leukemia is what’s known as a “blood cancer” as it forms in tissues which produce blood for the body. Most people are used to “solid” cancers which consist of obvious tumors growing due to genetic cell mutations. 

Treatment of leukemia is often quite complicated. This is due to the various types of leukemias out there. Despite this complexity, leukemia has one of the better rates of remission or full cancer regression. This is because blood based cancers have less corrupted cells than solids. Despite that, learning more about leukemia can only be beneficial. Treatment should always begin early. 

How Does Leukemia Work? 

With cancer, cells grow abnormally quickly and function incorrectly. As a blood cancer, leukemia focuses on the white blood cells within the body. Leukemia occurs in the bone marrow, which produces white blood cells. The white blood cells created by leukemia don’t function correctly. This means that a person with leukemia will often find their immune system compromised due to the inability of the white blood cells to work correctly. 

Normally, cells grow, complete their required activities and then end. Leukemia cells continue to grow long after their lifespan should end. This means that they crowd out the healthy cells that are producing white blood cells properly. 

Causes and Types of Leukemia

Unfortunately, the full cause of leukemia isn’t fully known at this time. They continue to learn more and more about this disease. Currently, most research is determining what appears to be a mix of environmental and genetic causes. 

There are many different types of leukemia. The first classification deals with the speed of the progression. Acute leukemia actually multiplies rapidly and sees the disease grow very quickly. Chronic leukemia (of which there are many) either causes too many cells to be produced or reduces the number of blood cells to be released. Chronic leukemia often won’t produce symptoms for a long period of time. Some of the major types of leukemia include: 

  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia - This leukemia is more likely to be found in adults. It can be hidden away for many years before people know it’s occurring. 
  • Chronic myelogenous leukemia - This also focuses on adults, but can sometimes be contracted by the younger generations. This form of leukemia will be quiet like CLL, but will eventually enter a phase where the leukemia rapidly grows. 
  • Acute lymphocytic leukemia - When younger children get leukemia, it’s usually ALL. Despite this, adults can also get it in some cases. 
  • Acute myelogenous leukemia - AML is very common and can occur in both adults and children. It’s the most common acute leukemia found in adults. 

Symptoms of Leukemia

When it comes to leukemia, certain types don’t show off their symptoms very quickly. Also, the symptoms can vary depending on what type exists. The best choice is to see a doctor if any of these symptoms are occuring. Symptoms include: 

  • Unexpected weight loss
  • Feeling weakness or persistent fatigue
  • Temperature swings like fevers and chills
  • Bleeding or bruising easily
  • Severe infections
  • Frequent infections
  • Severe infections
  • Red spots on the skin
  • Excess sweating at night
  • Nosebleeds
  • Feeling bone pain

Treatment of Leukemia

Doctors will find leukemia in blood tests, through performing a physical exam or a bone marrow sample if it can’t be found in another way. Once it’s diagnosed, treatment will begin. Treatment will vary depending on the type of cancer and the age of the people involved. Some potential treatment options include: 

  • Biological Therapy - These treatment options encourage the body’s own immune system to recognize the leukemia cells and attack them. 
  • Chemotherapy - Probably the most well known cancer treatment, chemotherapy is a chemical based cancer treatment. Each therapy is designed for the patient and can consist of one or many different drugs. They can be taken as pills, or through an IV straight into the veins. 
  • Targeted Therapy - Targeted therapy is a type of therapy where drugs are used to specifically exploit the weakness of some cancerous cells and control that disease. 
  • Radiation Therapy - In this treatment, people have high energy radioactive beams directed at the leukemia cells. This treatment can damage healthy cells as well, so the lasers are incredibly precise and attempt to only hit the leukemia cells. In some cases, if there are cancerous cells throughout the body, it can be used over the body. 
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