Leukemia is a cancer that affects the bone marrow and the lymphatic system, which would be the body’s blood-forming cells. Leukemia usually involves the white blood cells, which are what your body uses to help protect itself from disease. White blood cells will normally grow and divide as your body needs them, but leukemia causes your bone marrow to generate abnormal white blood cells that don’t work as they should.
Symptoms of Leukemia
There are lots of distinct types of leukemia, with a few which are more common in adults and many others that mostly affect kids. The precise symptoms will be different depending upon which type of leukemia you’re dealing with. But, there are some common symptoms which tend to be consistent with most types of this disease. These include:
- Fatigue and weakness
- Excessive, inexplainable weight loss
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Enlarged spleen or liver
- Petechiae (tiny red spots on skin)
- Bone tenderness and pain
- Fever or chills
- Diseases which are frequent or intense
- Bleeding and bruising easily
- Recurrent nosebleeds
- Excessive nighttime perspiration
It’s easy to overlook a lot of these symptoms since they may be consistent with other disorders, like the flu. However, if you’re experiencing several of these symptoms over a protracted time period, make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible.
Causes of Leukemia
Physicians do not know the specific causes of leukemia, but scientists think that it occurs as a result of certain environmental and genetic factors. Factors that may increase your risk for developing leukemia include:
Genetic disorders: Leukemia involves the development of certain genetic abnormalities, there are particular genetic disorders that increases your chance. 1 example of this could be Down syndrome.
Smoking: Smokers will have an increased risk of developing certain types of leukemia, such as acute myelogenous leukemia.
Family history: If you have family with leukemia, then your chances of developing it increase.
Exposure to certain chemicals: Some compounds, such as benzene (found in gasoline), are connected to specific types of leukemia.
Previous cancer treatment: If you have received radiation or chemotherapy as part of your treatment for a different type of cancer, you’ll be at an increased risk for developing other cancers, such as leukemia, later on.
Treatments for Leukemia
The particular treatment that will work best for you will be determined by your physician based on which type of leukemia you have, just how much it has spread, your age, and general health. The most common treatments for leukemia include:
Chemotherapy: This is the most common type of treatment for leukemia. Chemotherapy works by using chemicals to kill leukemia cells.
Radiation therapy: This type of treatment works by using high-energy X-rays to harm leukemia cells and prevent their growth. Radiation can be targeted to a particular area, or it may be used on your whole body.
Targeted treatment: There are a few drugs that have the ability to target only cancerous cells and attack them according to their vulnerabilities.
Biological treatment: This type of treatment works by boosting your immune system to be able to make it even more capable of attacking leukemia cells.
Stem cell transplants: This is a process that will replace your diseased bone marrow with healthy bone marrow. The treatment may use your own healthy stem cells which were harvested before treatment started or donor cells.