Leukemia is a type of cancer that affects the blood and bone marrow, the spongy tissue inside bones where blood cells are produced. It is a relatively rare condition, with approximately 60,000 new cases diagnosed in the United States each year.
What is leukemia?
Leukemia is a type of cancer that affects the blood and bone marrow, the spongy tissue inside bones where blood cells are produced. In leukemia, the bone marrow produces abnormal white blood cells, which do not function properly and can accumulate in the body, interfering with normal blood cell production.
Who's at risk for leukemia?
Risk factors for leukemia may include:
- Exposure to radiation or certain chemicals, such as benzene
- Certain genetic conditions, such as Down syndrome
- Certain medical treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy
- Family history of leukemia
What causes leukemia?
The exact cause of leukemia is not known, but it is believed to be due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. In some cases, leukemia may be caused by mutations in certain genes that control blood cell production.
How does leukemia start?
Leukemia can develop at any age, but it is most common in adults over 55 years of age. The onset of leukemia may be gradual or sudden, and it can be difficult to detect in its early stages.
What are the symptoms of leukemia?
Symptoms of leukemia can vary depending on the type of leukemia and may include:
- Night sweats
- Weight loss
- Bone pain or tenderness
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Frequent infections
- Easy bruising or bleeding
How is leukemia diagnosed?
A healthcare provider may perform several tests to diagnose leukemia. These tests may include:
- Blood tests: These tests can measure the number and types of blood cells present in the body.
- Bone marrow biopsy: This test involves removing a small sample of bone marrow from the hipbone to examine for abnormal cells.
- Imaging tests: These tests, such as X-rays or CT scans, can help detect any abnormalities in the body.
How can leukemia be treated?
Treatment for leukemia may depend on the type of leukemia and may include:
- Chemotherapy: This treatment involves using drugs to kill cancer cells.
- Radiation therapy: This treatment uses high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells.
- Stem cell transplant: This treatment involves replacing diseased bone marrow with healthy bone marrow from a donor
What complications may occur with leukemia?
- Complications of leukemia may include:
- Infection: The abnormal white blood cells produced in leukemia can interfere with the body's ability to fight off infections.
- Bleeding: The abnormal white blood cells produced in leukemia can also interfere with blood clotting, leading to easy bruising or bleeding.
- Anemia: Leukemia can interfere with the body's ability to produce red blood cells, leading to anemia.
How can I prevent leukemia?
There is no known way to prevent leukemia, but certain lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking and avoiding exposure to certain chemicals, may help reduce the risk of developing the condition.
Long-term management of leukemia
Long-term management of leukemia may involve ongoing monitoring and treatment to prevent relapse or the development of new complications. It is important to work closely with a healthcare provider to develop an individualized treatment plan.
What is recent research saying about leukemia?
Recent research has focused on the development of new and more targeted treatments for leukemia, including immunotherapy and targeted therapy. These treatments may help improve survival rates and quality of life for individuals with leukemia.
Where can I go for more information on leukemia?
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and the American Cancer Society are both helpful resources for information on leukemia. It is also important to work closely with a healthcare provider for guidance and support in managing leukemia.