Leukemia – Types, Causes,Symptoms, and Treatments

Overview of Leukemia

Leukemia is an umbrella term for various cancers caused by blood cells. The cancers are differentiated based on the cell’s growth and the affected cell. Few leukemias are common in adults and children.

Causes of Leukemia

There is limited research on the exact cause of leukemia, but few risk factors are associated.

  1. Family History of Leukemia
  2. Smoking Cigarettes
  3. Chewing of tobacco
  4. Alcohol consumption
  5. Exposure to chemotherapy
  6. Immune suppressant drugs
  7. Radiation Exposure
  8. Benzene Exposure
  9. External Environmental factors

Types of Leukemia

Leukemia’s are classified broadly into four main conditions. This is based on how long it takes to develop the disease.

The four Types of Leukemia are the following:

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  1. Acute Lymphoid Leukemia (ALL)
  2. Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)
  3. Chronic Lymphoid Leukemia (CLL)
  4. Chronic myeloid Leukemia (CML)

Acute Lymphoid Leukemia (ALL)

  • It is frequently seen in children. The cells divide quickly, and the disease progresses aggressively in the span of a few weeks.
  • It has an abrupt onset

Symptoms

  • Patients will have easy bruisability, fatigue and increased susceptibility towards infections.
  • Diagnosis is made by Bone marrow smear, Immuno phenotyping.

Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)

  • It is frequently seen in adults but can also happen in children.
  • It also has an abrupt onset.

Symptoms

  • Symptoms are similar to the ones in Acute Lymphoid Leukemia (ALL)
  • Symptoms which are specific to AML are bone pain, Lymphode enlargement, headaches, vomiting and nerve problems.

Chronic Lymphoid Leukemia (CLL)

  • It is the most commonly found Chronic Leukemia in adults worldwide.
  • The patients might not suffer any symptoms in the early stages as it is a slow-growing disease.
  • It is a late-onset disease.

Symptoms

  • Shortness of breath, anaemia, fatigue.
  • Increased episodes of infections.
  • Bone pain, swellings, organ enlargement.

Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML)

  • It is commonly seen in Old-age (55 and above)
  • Rare sighting in children

Symptoms

  • Patients are usually asymptomatic or have non-specific symptoms.
  • Fever, weight loss, fatigue etc.

How to diagnose various types of Leukemia? 

Diagnosis of Leukemia can be incidental in the case of CLL or CML as they are often asymptomatic.

  • A clinician’s physical examination serves as the basis for diagnosis.
  • Blood work up like – CBC, Bone marrow biopsy and Lymph node biopsy.
  • Immunophenotyping.
  • Imaging tests.

Treatment of Leukemia

Treatment depends on the stage and the aggressiveness of Leukemia. The following are the few treatment options available for Leukemia.

Chemotherapy

It is done by using medications that help stoppage of cell growth and destroy the abnormal cells.

Radiotherapy

It is done using intense energy X-Ray beams to inhibit abnormal cell growth.

Stem cell Transplantation

This is done by replacing unhealthy cells with healthy cells. This also helps in replacing the cells destroyed during chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Biological or immune therapy

Immune therapy works by making your existing immune system stronger, helping you to fight abnormal cells. It helps to find out the cancer cells and destroy them.

Target cell therapy

As the name suggests, it acts on targeted cells. Particular drugs work on the special type of cells and destroy them without affecting the surrounding cells.

Conclusion

Leukemias are a worldwide disease. The disease affects both children and adults equally. These are hard to detect, making them one of the hardest to treat.

But if the diseases are caught early enough, there are effective therapies available. There is a reasonable survival rate, and you can approach NGOs and support groups working towards spreading awareness and promoting the welfare of the affected individuals.

FAQ

What is acute Leukemia?

Leukemia develops quickly and aggressively. AML and ALL come under Leukemia.

What is meant by Leukemia?

Leukemia is an umbrella term for various cancers caused by blood cells. The cancers are differentiated based on the cell that is affected and the growth of the cell. Few leukemias are common in adults and few in children.

What is Leukemia caused by?

There is limited research on the exact cause of leukemia, but few risk factors are associated.
1. Family History of Leukemia
2. Smoking Cigarettes
3. Chewing of tobacco
4. Alcohol consumption
5. Exposure to chemotherapy
6. Immune suppressant drugs
7. Radiation Exposure
8. Benzene Exposure
9. External Environmental factor

What is chronic lymphocytic Leukemia?

It is the most commonly found Chronic Leukemia in adults all around the world.
The patients might not suffer any symptoms in the early stages as it is a slow-growing disease. It is a late-onset disease.


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