Know the basics
What is leukemia?
Leukemia is cancer of the blood cells. There are red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets, which are produced by the bone marrow – the soft, spongy tissue found in the central cavities of bones. Unlike other cancers, leukemia does not produce a mass (tumor) but results in the overproduction of abnormal white blood cells. Red blood cells that carry oxygen and other materials to the tissues of the body, white blood cells that fight infection, and platelets that help the blood clot. Hundreds of billions of new blood cells are produced in the bone marrow each day, providing the body with a constant supply of fresh, healthy cells.
Leukemia usually involves the white blood cells – are a part of the immune system, and help our bodies fight infection. As a result, these abnormal cells, called leukemic cells, are unable to fight infection the way healthy white cells can. Come with time, the accumulation of the leukemic cells also interferes with the production of other blood cells. Eventually, the body has too few red cells for supplying oxygen to the body’s tissues, too few platelets for proper clotting and too few healthy white cells for fighting infection. People with leukemia are at risk for bruising, bleeding, and infections.
There are many types of leukemia, which are classified by the specific type of white blood cell involved. The main types of leukemia are myelogenous and lymphocytic, and each type has an acute (rapidly progressing) and a chronic (slowly progressing) form. Acute leukemia mainly affects cells that are immature or not fully developed, prevents them from maturing and functioning normally. Chronic leukemia develops more slowly so that the body still has some healthy cells available to fight infection.
How common is leukemia?
Leukemia is extremely common in children and teens. Also, it affects far more adults. It commonly affects more males than females and more common in Caucasians than in African-Americans. It can affect patients at any age. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
Know the symptoms
What are the symptoms of leukemia?
The common symptoms of leukemia are:
- Anemia, pale skin. It is caused by having a lower than the normal number of red blood cells.
- Frequent bleeding from the gums, rectum or nose.
- Tiny red spots on your skin (petechiae).
- Susceptibility to infections.
- Frequent fevers or chills.
- A new lump or swollen gland in your neck, under your arm, or in your groin.
- Weight loss.
- Persistent, unexplained fatigue, weakness.
- Bone pain.
- Excessive sweating at night.
- Swelling and pain on the left side of the belly.
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.
Know the causes
What causes leukemia?
Scientists do not know the exact causes of leukemia. It is believed that the trigger is a combination of genetic and environmental factors. In general, leukemia is thought to occur when some blood cells acquire mutations in their DNA — the instructions inside each cell that guide its action. There may be other changes in the cells that have to be fully understood could contribute to leukemia.
Know the risk factors
What increases my risk for leukemia?
There are many risk factors for leukemia, such as:
- Excessive radiation, harmful chemical exposure;
- Treated chemotherapy or radiation therapy;
- Conditions caused by abnormal chromosomes, such as Down syndrome.
Understand the diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is leukemia diagnosed?
You may experience the following diagnostic exams:
- Physical exam. Pale skin from anemia, swelling of your lymph nodes, and enlargement of your liver and spleen are considered as a sign of leukemia.
- Blood tests.This test can determine if you have abnormal levels of white blood cells or platelets — which may suggest leukemia.
- Bone marrow test. Specialized tests of your leukemia cells may reveal certain characteristics that are used to determine your treatment options.
How is leukemia treated?
The leukemia treatment options will be based on your age and overall health, the type of leukemia you have, and whether it has spread to other parts of your body.
Common treatments used to fight leukemia include:
- Chemotherapy is the major form of treatment for leukemia. This drug treatment uses chemicals to kill leukemia cells.
- Biological therapy. Biological therapy works by using treatments that help your immune system recognize and attack leukemia cells.
- Targeted therapy. Targeted therapy uses drugs that attack specific vulnerabilities within your cancer cells.
- Radiation therapy. Radiation therapy uses X-rays or other high-energy beams to damage leukemia cells and stop their growth.
- Radiation therapy may be used to prepare for a stem cell transplant.
- Stem cell transplant. A stem cell transplant is a procedure to replace your diseased bone marrow with healthy bone marrow.
Lifestyle changes & Home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage leukemia?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with leukemia:
- Balanced diets;
- Do exercises;
- Avoid stress;
- Avoid high doses of radiation;
- Protect yourself from toxic chemical such as benzene;
- Do not smoke or tobacco;
- Using a small ginger spice or candy or tea can help for nausea or vomiting;
- Go to bed on time to set up a sleep habit;
- Take off your time to get a plenty rest;
- Get the support you need.Spend time with people who care about you, and let them help you.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Leukemia. http://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases_conditions/hic_Leukemia Accessed September 17, 2016.
Leukemia http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/leukemia/basics/tests-diagnosis/con-20024914 Accessed September 17, 2016.
Leukemia http://www.webmd.com/cancer/tc/leukemia-exams-and-tests Accessed September 17, 2016.
Review Date: January 4, 2017 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017