Leukemia: Symptoms, Types, Causes & Treatments

Leukemia: Symptoms, Types, Causes & Treatments

Leukemia (Blood Cancer) is cancer of the body's blood-forming tissues, including the bone marrow and the lymphatic system.

There are many types of leukemias. Pediatric leukemias are different from Adult leukemias.

In leukemia, bone marrow produces abnormal white blood cells, which don't function properly and grow at a rapid pace.

Treatment for leukemia is complex and needs an expert team. It needs an institute protocol, dedicated team, financial resources, social support and passion to make your treatment successful.

Symptoms

  1. Fever or chills
  2. Fatigue, weakness
  3. Frequent infections
  4. Losing weight without trying
  5. Swollen lymph nodes, enlarged liver or spleen
  6. Easy bleeding or bruising
  7. Recurrent nosebleeds
  8. Tiny red spots in your skin (petechiae)
  9. Excessive sweating, especially at night
  10. Bone pain or tenderness

LEUKEMIA  CLASSIFICATION

Acute leukemia. In acute leukemia, the abnormal blood cells are immature blood cells (blasts). Acute leukemia requires aggressive, timely treatment.

Chronic leukemia. Chronic leukemia involves more mature blood cells.

The second type of classification is by type of white blood cell affected:

Lymphocytic leukemia. This type of leukemia affects the lymphoid cells (lymphocytes), which form lymphoid or lymphatic tissue. Lymphatic tissue makes up your immune system.

Myelogenous leukemia. This type of leukemia affects the myeloid cells. Myeloid cells give rise to red blood cells, white blood cells and platelet-producing cells.

TYPES OF LEUKEMIA

Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL). This is the most common type of leukemia in young children.

Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML).  It occurs in children and adults. AML is the most common type of acute leukemia in adults.

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). With CLL, the most common chronic adult leukemia, you may feel well for years without needing treatment.

Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML). This type of leukemia mainly affects adults. A person with CML may have few or no symptoms for months or years before entering a phase in which the leukemia cells grow more quickly.

Other types. 

Hairy cell leukemia

Myelodysplastic syndromes

Risk Factors

Previous cancer treatment (Chemo/ Radiation) 

Genetic disorders

Exposure to certain chemicals

Smoking

Family history of leukemia

TREATMENT

Treatment depends on the type.

Acute leukemias require intensive chemotherapy protocols with blood product support and a dedicated team to supervise the protocol driven management.

Chronic leukemias like CML can be treated with tablets like Imatinib, Dasatinib for many years.

Bone marrow/ stem cell transplant is used for certain high risk acute leukemias.

Newer treatment protocols have increased survival many folds.

Dr Ravi Jaiswal

Medical Oncologist