Leukemia or Blood Cancer Early detection and the right treatment can save lives
Leukemia is commonly called as blood cancer. It is actually the cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues, including the bone marrow and the lymphatic system. Leukemia is seen in adults as well as children. In leukemia patients, the bone marrow produces abnormal white blood cells.
The symptoms of leukemia are type specific. Commonly, the symptoms of leukemia include, fever, fatigue and weakness, infections, weight loss, bleeding and bruising, nose-bleeding, tiny red spots, sweating at night, and bone pain. As the symptoms of leukemia are similar to flu and other common illnesses, the patients may not be able to gauge the severity of this dreadful disease. Early visit to the doctor and availing a detailed diagnosis can confirm on the presence or absence of leukemia.
The actual causes of leukemia are not known. However, the genetic and environmental factors are considered as potential causes for the development of leukemia. Significantly, the abnormal white blood cells crowd out the healthy blood cells (white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets) in the bone marrow, leading to the growth of leukemia.
Leukemia is of different types. Acute Leukemia (immature blood cells), Chronic Leukemia (mature blood cells replicate or accumulate slowly), Lymphocytic leukemia (leukemia that affects the lymphoid cells), and Myelogenous leukemia (leukemia affects the myeloid cells).
Certain factors pose the risk of leukemia. Previous cancer treatment, genetic disorders, exposure to chemicals, smoking and family history of leukemia. It is found that, chemotherapy and radiation therapy have sometimes pose the risk of leukemia. Genetic disorders like Down syndrome also pose increased risk of leukemia. Chemicals like benzene are considered to enhance the risk of leukemia. Smoking over a long period is considered to cause leukemia.
Tests and Diagnosis
Any one or all symptoms of leukemia may prompt the doctor to advise the patient for complete diagnosis. First, the doctor makes a physical examination to confirm leukemia. This includes observing the patient’s skin (pale skin for leukemia), swelling of lymph nodes and enlargement of the liver and spleen.
Blood Tests that reveal abnormal growth of white blood cells or platelets. The bone marrow test reveals leukemia cells. For this procedure, a sample of the bone marrow is collected from the hip-bone by using a long and thin needle.
Treatments and drugs
The treatment and drugs prescribed for leukemia depends on the stage of the disease. The most common treatments for leukemia include chemotherapy (use of drugs in pill or injection form). Biological therapy (treatments that help the immune system to recognize and attack leukemia cells).
Targeted therapy (drugs that attack specific vulnerabilities). Radiation therapy (using X-rays and high-energy beams to kill the cancer cells). Stem-cell transplant (diseased bone marrow /stem cells are replaced by healthy bone marrow).