Leukemia – Overview

Leukemia is a term used for describing a group of cancers of the blood stem cells. Usually starting in the bone marrow, they often result in high level of white blood cells. The article provides a brief overview of leukemia, its types, reasons and cures available.

Please note the information does not suffice for medical opinion.

Leukemia is a cancer of the blood stem cells. Stem cells are basic Leukemia
cells that form different types of cells. It is important to look at the working of the blood stem cells. Blood stem cells form either lymphoid stem cells or myeloid stem cells.

  • The lymphoid stem cells further develop to form lymphocytes (white blood cells) that make the antibodies and are responsible for fighting infection.
  • Myeloid stem cells develop to form the red blood cells, platelets and granulocytes. While the red blood cells carry oxygen to tissue in the body, granulocytes and platelets are white blood cells that destroy bacteria and infection. Platelets are responsible to put a stop to bleeding due to damaged blood vessels.

Leukemia is a medical condition where the blood stem cells present in the bone marrow change and stop behaving and growing in a normal manner. These abnormal cells are then termed as Leukemia. Over a period of time these abnormal cells increase and inhibit the working of normal cells.

Types of Leukemia

Once the tests are done the doctors get to the task of determining the type of Leukemia. For every type of leukemia the treatment to which a patient may be subject is different. Leukemia may be classified as acute or chronic depending on how fast the disease Leukemia 1develops. It may also be classified as myeloid and lymphoid depending on the type of blood cells that are affected by the medical condition. Based on these classifications Leukemia is of four types.

 Acute and Chronic Leukemia

 Acute leukemia develops rather fast in the body. The cells multiply rapidly not allowing the normal blood cells to work normally. A bone marrow test can help determine the level of leukemia and normal blood cells in the body. Patients with acute leukemia feel tired easily and take time to recover from bruises. It is important for these patients to avoid infections.

Chronic leukemia grows slowly in the body. The leukemia cells in this condition work nearly in the same way as normal cells. Patients do not feel sick during the early stages and the only sign that may be observed is high level of leukemia cells in a blood test.

Myeloid and Lymphoid Leukemia

These leukemia are named after blood cells that they affect. Myeloid leukemia starts in the myeloid cells and lymphoid starts in the lymphoid cells.

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Based on the above classification leukemia can be classified as

  • Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)
  • Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL)
  • Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML)
  • Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL)

Another type known as Hairy cell leukemia is a rare type of chronic leukemia.

Reasons for Leukemia

There are no definite reasons or causes that scientists have been able to determine for leukemia. Multiple genetic and environmental factors play an important role in this. Research has indicated that there are certain risk factors that make a person more vulnerable to the disease. Exposure to high level of radiation, nature of work involving work with hazardous chemicals, chemotherapy myelodyplastic syndrome are just some of the factors. The risk factors associated with leukemia are discussed din detail in a separate article.

Cure of Leukemia

The treatment for Leukemia involves –

  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation
  • Stem Cell Transplant and
  • Targeted Therapy

There are certain types of leukemia that can be avoided or the risk lessened. Avoiding exposure to high dosage of radiation, chemicals, tobacco can help avoid leukemia.

References: http://www.cancer.gov


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