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Leukemia: Understanding Cancer, Its Causes And Treatment Options

Leukemia: The body makes more white blood cells than it needs when it has leukemia. These leukemia cells cannot fight infection like normal white blood cells. And because they are in large numbers, they begin affecting the way organs work.

Leukemia: Understanding Cancer, Its Causes And Treatment Options

Leukemia: In some forms of leukemia, one may not notice symptoms in early stages

HIGHLIGHTS

  1. Body makes more white blood cells than it needs when it has leukemia
  2. These leukemia cells cannot fight infection like normal white blood cells
  3. They begin growin in large numbers and affect organs

Leukemia is a cancer of blood-forming tissues, which hinder the body's ability to fight infections. Patients with low-growing forms of leukemia have no symptoms. It is a kind of blood cancer caused by a rise in number of white blood cells in the body. These white blood cells outnumber red blood cells and platelets that the body needs for staying healthy. And that extra white blood cells don't work the right way.

Also read: Irrfan Khan Dies At 53. He Was Treated For Neuroendocrine Tumour A Few Months Ago

What is leukemia?


The American Cancer Society describes leukemias as cancers which start in cells that would normally develop into different types of blood cells. Usually, the cancer starts in early forms of white blood cells, but some leukemias start in other blood cell types.

There are several types of leukemia, depending on whether leukeuma is fast growing (acute) or slower growing (chronic), and if it starts in myeloid cells or lymphoid cells. Knowing about the specific type of leukemia helps doctors better predict prognosis and take up the best possible treatment for the patient.

Also read: Leukemia: 7 Important Symptoms In Children

Symptoms of leukemia

Different types of leukemia can result in different symptoms. In some forms of this cancer, one may not notice any signs in the early stages. Following are some symptoms of leukemia:

  • Weakness
  • Weight loss
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Pain in bones and joints
  • Easily bruising or bleeding
  • Fever or chills
  • Headaches
  • Night sweats
  • Vomiting

Causes of leukemia

Factors that can trigger leukemia include the following:

  • Smoking
  • History of radiation therapy or chemotherapy
  • Exposure to radiation or certain chemicals
  • Family history of leukemia

As mentioned above, the body makes more white blood cells than it needs when it has leukemia. These leukemia cells cannot fight infection like normal white blood cells. And because they are in large numbers, they begin affecting the way organs work. Over time, one may end up not having enough red blood cells to supply oxygen to the body, enough platelets to clot your blood, or enough normal white blood cells to fight infection.

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Smoking can trigger leukemia
Photo Credit: iStock

Types of leukemia

  1. Acute lymphocytic leukemia- This is a form of childhood leukemia. It is quite common. It can sprad to your lymph nodes and central nervous system.
  2. Acute myelogenous leulemia: It is the second most common form of childhood leukemia and is one of the most common forms for adults.
  3. Chronic lymphocytic leukemia: This is a common form of adult leukemia. Some kinds may be stable for years and may not need treatment. Other kinds need treatment.
  4. Chronic myelogenous luekemia: This form of leukemia does not cause noticeable symptoms. You may not be diagnosed with it until you have a routine blood test.

Diagnosis of leukeumia can be done with the help of blood tests, bone marrow biopsy, spinal tap and imaging tests.

Leukemia treatment


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Treatment of leukemia depends on the type of leukemia. Chemotherapy, radiation, targeted therapy, biologic therapy, stem cell transplant and surgery are treatment options for leukemia.

Disclaimer: This content including advice provides generic information only. It is in no way a substitute for qualified medical opinion. Always consult a specialist or your own doctor for more information. NDTV does not claim responsibility for this information.

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