Leukemia: What you should know about this cancer of the blood.
Leukemia is the disease of the blood. It is a cancer of the bone marrow and body’s blood-forming tissues, and the lymphatic system. This cancer of the blood can develop due to a problem with blood cell production. It often affects the leukocytes or white blood cells.
This disease exists in various types of which some type of it based on research, is most likely to affect older adults usually above the age of 50. While other types are the most frequent and common cause of cancer in children below the age of 15.
This cancer of the blood and bone marrow usually affects the white blood cells. The white blood cells are strong infection fighters that generate naturally and split in a unique way, as needed by the human body. Those with leukemia encounter difficulty in this area, as their bone marrow produces abnormal white blood cells, that fail to function properly in the right way.
The Treatment for leukemia is often complex and complicated depending on the type of leukemia the person is suffering from, coupled with other factors. Although there are procedures and medical resources that are capable of making the treatment a successful one.
The Acute type of leukemia forms quickly and worsens faster, but the chronic type worsens with time. A person’s survival from this type of cancer is dependent on the type he is suffering from.
The National Cancer Institute estimated that around 61780 people will get a diagnosis of leukemia in 2019. The institute also predicted that leukemia will cause 22840 deaths in the same year.
As you read on, we will discuss on leukemia, its types, causes, symptoms, and treatment.
What are the types of Leukemia?
As stated above, the Acute leukemia is the type where the cancer cells multiply quickly, while in chronic leukemia, the cancer cells multiply slowly and consistently with relatively mild symptoms.
This cancer of the blood is classified according to the type of cells involved like the white blood cells, red blood cells, and the platelets. The type of Leukemia that affects the myeloid cells is referred to as myelogenous leukemia. The Myeloid cells are immature blood cells that would originally become granulocytes or monocytes. While The type that affects the lymphocytes is referred to as lymphocytic leukemia.
Here are the types of leukemia you should know.
Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML)
Acute Myelogenous Leukemia, AML is one common type of leukemia that can be discovered in both kids and adults but most common in adults. According to the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program of the National Cancer Institute, NCI, about twenty-one thousand new cases of Acute Myelogenous Leukemia are diagnosed yearly in the US. AML is the most common form of leukemia. The 5-year survival rate for AML is about 27%.
Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL)
Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia is the most common cause of leukemia in children but can also occur in adults. The NCI estimates about six thousand (6,000) new cases of ALL are diagnosed yearly. The 5-year survival rate for ALL is estimated to be 68.2%
Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML)
Chronic myelogenous leukemia, CML is most common in adults. Its symptoms may likely be hidden for a period of time like months or years as the case may be before it metamorphoses into fast multiplying cancer cells. According to the NCI, An approximate figure of nine thousand (9,000) new cases of CML are diagnosed yearly. The 5-year survival rate for CML is about 67%.
Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)
Chronic lymphocytic leukemia, CLL is the most common type of leukemia that is likely to be seen in older adults, people above 55 years. CLL can hardly be discovered in children. According to the NCI, an approximate value of about twenty thousand (20,000) new cases of CLL are discovered yearly. The 5-year survival rate for CLL is about 83.2%
Other types of leukemia are myelodysplastic syndromes, myeloproliferative disorder, and hairy cell leukemia, which is an uncommon type of CLL.
There are lots of factors that might accelerate the risk of developing some types of leukemia. However, some factors have more connection to getting this cancer than others and they include:
Previous cancer treatment.
Due to the radiation and chemotherapeutic treatment received by People who have had certain types of cancer treatment in the past, chances are that they might likely have this disease after some time as a result of the chemotherapy and radiation therapy previously done on them.
Children with genetic abnormalities like down syndrome are likely to develop leukemia. Due to the third copy of chromosome 21 in kids with down syndrome, the risk of getting this disease is usually higher than kids without these abnormalities. Kids with Li-Fraumeni syndrome have an increased risk of getting leukemia.
Exposure to certain chemicals.
Toxic chemicals such as benzene and some hair dyes when exposed to them can lead to getting some kind of leukemia. Smoke and chemical from industries carelessly discharge frequently can increase the risk of the disease.
Family history of leukemia.
If there is leukemia in the history of the family or any of the family members are living with the disease, there will be a tendency of members of the family to be diagnosed with the same cancer. Although there is a chance of 2:10 of a family member to be diagnosed with leukemia.
Artificial ionizing radiation:
Similar to the first type of risk factor discussed here, Artificial ionization radiation could include having being treated with radiation therapy for a previous cancer case. This is a factor for getting leukemia as well.
Based on research, it is discovered that the human T lymphotropic virus, HTLV-1 has connections to leukemia.
Certain inherited immune conditions
Some transferred immune disorder from parents to offspring is capable of increasing these diseases. These immune conditions include; bloom syndrome, ataxia-telangiectasia, wiskott Aldrich, churchman diamond syndrome, and immune suppression.
This is not to say that the risk factors are reasons why you may have leukemia. It is possible to have some of these risk factors and not have a trace of this disease. You may have leukemia and are not faced with these factors.
Causes of leukemia
Leukemia occurs as a result of the combination of environmental and genetic factors, which ranges from an immune disorder, inherited abnormalities, and some level of exposure to radiation.
The DNA of the developing blood cells (WBCs, RBCs, and the platelets) becomes damaged and leads to uncontrolled white blood cell generation and splitting. The healthy blood cells regenerate and die, whereas the unhealthy ones grow but won’t die as a result of a certain disorder.
As these unhealthy cells generate, they grow and multiply in number so that they overcome the healthy ones. This causes the healthy ones not to have space for growing and functioning the right way. This then leads to the spread of these cancerous cells formed from the bone marrow to spread and contaminate the blood.
Symptoms of leukemia
The symptoms of leukemia are dependent on the type. However, the common signs are:
Poor blood clot
Leukemia can cause poor blood clotting. This is the inability of the body to stop bleeding. You easily get cut, bleed easily, and heal slowly due to poor blood clots. This can cause a person to bruise or bleed easily and heal slowly. Purple and red spots called Petechiae, develop easily when immature white blood cells outgrow the platelets, which are helpful for blood clotting.
Due to the large multiplication of the cancerous cells, there become few effective red blood cells. It implies that there is a shortage of hemoglobin present in their blood. This Hemoglobin helps transports iron around the body. The reduced presence of iron causes impaired breathing and unhealthy skin.
The WBCs are strong in fighting infections. In a case where the WBCs are weak and few, the tendency of getting an infection will be high.
Other symptoms include:
1. Too much sweating, especially at night.
2. Always being tired and weak even after night rest.
3. Weight loss
4. Pains in the bone
5. Painless boils and growth
6. Enlargement of the liver/spleen
This cancer can as well spread all over other parts of the human body like the lungs, heart, testes, gastrointestinal Chanel, and the kidney.
Treatment for leukemia
The treatment for leukemia is also dependent on the type, age, and health status of the person. It is usually handled by doctors who are specialized in blood treatment and cancer of the blood. There are known as hematologist-oncologist.
The chance of successful treatment is usually high when the disease is discovered early and followed by immediate treatment.
Chemotherapy is the most common type of treatment for leukemia, especially the AML type of leukemia. The hematologist-oncologist will have to administer medications intravenously either using needle or drip, with a drug or a combination of drugs depending on the type of leukemia to kill cancerous cells. Although, this procedure might also kill noncancerous cells thus causing more complications such as hair loss or nausea. There might be a recommendation for a bone marrow transplant by the doctor if need be.
2. Stem cell transplantation
This treatment is also known as a bone marrow transplant. The diseased bone marrow is destroyed using radiation energy and or chemotherapy, after which healthy bone marrow from a donor is then infused. The donor is called autologous transplantation, while the receptor is called autologous transplantation.
3. Radiation therapy
This treatment procedure involves the use of radiation energy to destroy cancerous cells and stop their growth. This treatment can also be used to destroy leukemia infected bone marrow tissue before a bone marrow transplant.
This treatment plan is carried out using medications(tyrosine kinase inhibitors) that inhibits the growth of targeted cancer cells. Examples of this medication are; nilotinib, imatinib, and dasatinib.
Study shows that some of the persons with CML, who were treated with imatinib have a 5-year survival rate of about 90% because they have a gene mutation that responds to imatinib.
5. Interferon therapy
Interferon therapy is used to gradually slow down and stop the growth and multiplication of cancer cells. It works similarly to the immune system that helps to fight the spread of leukemia. Its side effects can be severe.
Based on the type of leukemia one has surgery which involves the removal of the spleen that might be needed to treat this disease. Surgery performed on younger people having this cancer has a largely successful record than older ones.