Archive for the ‘Leukemia’ Category

Smoking and Leukemia

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

Smoking increases the chance of getting leukemia. Leukemia is the cancer of blood-forming tissues with high levels of leukocytes. Radiation exposure and hereditary susceptibility are factors in some cases. In acute leukemias, anemia, fever, bleeding, and lymph-node swelling develop rapidly. Acute lymphocytic leukemia, found mostly in children, was once over 90% fatal in six months. Drug therapy can now cure more than half these children. Acute myelogenous (granulocytic) leukemia, found mostly in adults, has frequent remissions and recurrences, and few patients survive long. Chronic myelogenous leukemia most often begins in the 40s; weight loss, low fever, weakness, and other symptoms may not develop immediately. Chemotherapy helps the symptoms but may not prolong life. Chronic lymphocytic leukemia, mostly in the elderly, may be inactive for years. Survival rates are better than in myelogenous leukemia; most deaths are caused by infection or hemorrhage.

According to American Journal of Epidemiology, smokers above the age of 60 are more than twice as likely as non-smokers to develop a specific type of acute myeloid leukemia. The results of this study suggests smoking contributes to some type of leukemia. All types of leukemia are not caused by smoking. Despite social and medical arguments against tobacco use, the habit has spread worldwide. Nicotine and related alkaloids furnish the psychoactive effects and, along with tar (a residue containing resins and other by-products), the negative health effects. Those effects include lung cancer, oral and throat cancers, heart disease, stroke, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and macular degeneration. Smoking also increases the effects of other risk factors (see asbestosis). Passive smoking (breathing the smoke from others’ cigarettes) increases nonsmokers’ risk of lung cancer and the risk of sudden infant death syndrome. Self-help and doctor-run programs, along with nicotine patches and gums that provide diminishing doses of nicotine, are among the aids available to help those who wish to quit smoking.

What is the Difference Between Carcinomas, Leukemia, and Other Cancers?

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

Cancer is not just one disease. There are over 200 kinds of different cancer variations. The development of cancer takes weeks, months, or years. It begins with the DNA damage of one cell which then divides. As the DNA is repeatedly damaged, it gets to the point it can’t repair the damage. These abnormal, DNA damaged cells then begin to divide and increase their numbers. How fast these cells increase depends on age, health, immune system function, hormone function, thyroid function and the type of cancer. Some cancers spread very slowly and some rapidly. Often there are no signs and symptoms in the beginning. There are cancer cells in all of us but our immune system destroys them. It’s when our immune system becomes disabled that we become victimized by the invading cancer cells.

These Are The 5 Major Types of Cancers:

Carcinomas: The most common type of cancer. They are a solid tumor that can be found anywhere in the body. They form in the epithelial cells, which are the cells that cover the body including the skin, mouth, nose, lungs, and wall of the stomach. They spread through the blood and lymph system.

The most common form of breast cancer is ductal carcinoma. Lobular breast cancer begins in the lobules and is often found in both breasts when discovered. Many women develop skin cancer from spending too much time in the sun without protection. Two of the most common kinds of skin cancer are basal cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcimomas. The third kind, Melanoma skin cancer is the most dangerous and rapidly growing.

Leukemias: This cancer forms in the blood and bone marrow and is not a solid mass. Leukemia cells are abnormal white blood cells that become damaged and spread. They replace the healthy white blood cells. White blood cells fight infection. They are an important part of our immune function. When these abnormal white blood cells take over, an important part of our immune system is compromised. They also force out the healthy red blood cells that carry oxygen and energy through the body. You then become exhausted and anemic. In this process, the platelets are displaced as well, so you will bleed more easily. Leukemia is responsible for 35 percent of all cancers in children. One child in 1000 will develop the disease by the time they are 19 years of age.

Lymphomas: Cancer found in your lymph glands and in the lymphatic nodes of your body. Lymph nodes are found all over the body but are concentrated in your neck, under your arms, in your breasts, around the intestines, and in the chest. They are a solid tumor made up of abnormal white cells. The lymph system filters out toxins from the body. It is a separate system from the blood system. Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma are the most common kind of this form of cancer.

Myelomas: Tumors that form in the plasma cells. Plasma cells are antibody producing white blood cells that are found in bone marrow. Myelomas are increasing in number. I just ran into a young girl who grew up near steel mills. Her grandmother died of the cancer. She developed the same cancer not long after. She is only 22 and is in remission at this time. She has had this cancer twice. From one to four people per 100,000 will develop this form of cancer. It is more common in men than women. Its rate of development is double in blacks over whites.

Sarcomas: They are very uncommon but very difficult to treat. Sarcomas are solid tumors, that develop in the connective tissue of bone and muscles. You will also find them in the connective tissue of major organs like the bladder, kidneys, liver, lungs, and spleen.

Cancer cells become voracious in their appetite of nutrients, oxygen, and blood. They manage to keep multiplying under adverse conditions where nutrients and oxygen are minimal. They often change their cellular needs in the body to survive your immune system’s response to destroy them. They often become resistant to the cancer treatment. Some of these cancer cells develop a shell around them, making it difficult for the drug to penetrate. They have a huge appetite for healthy blood cells. That is why cancer drugs are used to stop the growth of new blood cells. They are trying to starve the cancer cell.


What Causes Leukemia?

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

No one knows the exact cause of leukemia, but we do know what some of the risk factors are. Through identification of these factors, we can determine who is more likely to suffer from this deadly cancer. This allows for earlier detection and treatment and may result in a high number of remissions.

Radiation is one of the primary risk factors that has been connected to leukemia. Exposure to high levels of radiation has been proven to be a major factor in the onset of leukemia. This was proved after the disaster at Chernobyl, when many people developed this form of cancer due to the high radiation levels.

Certain chemicals have also been associated with the development of leukemia. While not defined as actual causes, it has been noted that people working with formaldehyde and benzene (as in laboratories) are at higher risk for developing leukemia. Without proper precautions, the level of risk rises dramatically.

Specific problems with chromosomes may predisposition certain people to leukemia as well. Chromosomal problems such as Down’s Syndrome and other similar problems are linked to the onset of leukemia and is something to be considered in those with a known chromosomal disorder. Regular testing can ensure early detection and treatment may be begun sufficiently early to yield good results.

While some believe that exposure to electromagnetic fields, such as those found near power stations or under power lines, caused cancer, this has yet to be proven. In fact, no study has even proven a very strong link between exposure to electromagnetic fields and leukemia, so this is not considered to be a great risk factor.

Someone who has already suffered from one type of cancer may be at higher risk to develop leukemia. This is thought to be caused in part by the treatments for the original cancer, namely chemotherapy. The leukemia doesn’t usually appear for several years however and my not be associated with the cancer-fighting drugs taken up to a decade before. It is something to watch for though, if you have a history of cancer.

One last risk factor for leukemia is disease. There are certain diseases that can make you more susceptible to leukemia. The two most prominent diseases that have been associated with the development of this cancer are myelodyplastic syndrome (a blood disease) and the human T-cell leukemia virus. Both of these diseases tend to boost your likelihood of contracting leukemia.

Again, while we can suspect and guess at the causes of this devastating disease, leukemia does have certain risk factors. If you think you might be at risk, it is always best to speak with a doctor, just to make sure.

Symptoms of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

The symptoms of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia affect the entire body from head to toe. This article should not be used for diagnosis but rather a guide to what types of symptoms you or a loved one may be experiencing because of having Acute Lymphoblastic leukemia.

In this form of Leukemia, the white blood cells go into over-production mode and flood the bone marrow. This puts a huge amount of stress on the body and makes the patient feel awful in every way imaginable.

The patient will feel weak all over, and very fatigued as if they really need a nap although they feel they have not accomplished much at all. This can lead to depression, alienation from family and friends.

The patient will also experience unexplained bruises, and may bruise quite easily due to the low platelet count within their body. They become anemic. Anemia is a ‘shortage’ of red blood cells. Simply put the hemoglobin levels in the patient’s body have decreased and caused this anemia.

The hemoglobin is what carries the oxygen through the body, so when that count is low the oxygen rich blood is not traveling thought the body that in turn causes the patient to be more weak than usual, have a general blah feeling, or short of breath. There is evidence on the skin if a patient has anemia and this includes a yellowish tin to their eyes and skin.

There may be a noticeable weight loss because the patient simply does not feel like eating. Loss of appetite, pain or even the blah feeling that keeps these patients from eating. It might be best to offer small bits of food at different times of the day or night to help ensure the Leukemia patient gets enough nutrition to stay as healthy as they can be in order to fight the cancer.

Unexplained fevers and infections that seem to come out of nowhere leave the patient feeling even more lethargic. The pain in bones will also make the patient feel like not doing anything. The joints may hurt as well because of the blast of white cells into the marrow in the joints. This blast of cells can also make the surfaces of the bones to hurt.

Enlarged liver, spleen, and lymph nodes add to the discomfort of the patient, and the pain gets so bad that over the counter medications will not touch it. The patient may seek the relief of pain in many possible ways, but when it gets this bad, it is best to consult your doctor.

Petechiae (prounnounced as pa- tiki) can be seen on the skin. These little red dots or lines occur when the platelet levels are low in the blood stream. This is a common occurrence in many illnesses of the blood such as the Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia and of course anemia.

Overview of Acute Myeloid Leukemia- Monocytic (M5)

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

Acute Myeloid Leukemia- Monocytic, also classified as type M5, is a cancer of the blood cells sometimes caused by a mutation in the FLT-3 gene which results in a translocation of particular chromosomes. This results in high white blood cell counts. These white blood cells are immature and thus unable to function properly, creating a result similar to that of an auto-immune disease. These cells crowd out other cells in the blood. This causes a dangerous inbalance in the makeup of the blood. The imbalance can cause the patient to bleed more profusely than normal, bruise easily, experience pain in the joints and bones, have difficulty breathing, tire easily, develope concentration difficulties, and even experience dillussions, such as hearing voices. Left untreated, it will lead to death.

How is it treated? Treatment is usually divided into two chemotherapy phases: remission induction and post-remission therapy (consolidation).

The first phase concentrates on getting rid of all visible Leukemia. It usually involves two chemotherapy drugs but, in more difficult cases, can involve as many as four. This initial treatment lasts one week. Sometimes a second or third round may be given, each lasting a week. This is done in the hospital since the patient’s blood cell counts may be dangerously low during this time. Drugs to raise white blood cell counts, antibiotics, and blood product transfusions may be used to help protect against complications, depending on the preferences of the patient.

If induction is successful, no leukemia cells will be found in the blood, and the number of abnormal cells in the bone marrow will be less than 5% within a week or two. Induction is successful in about 40% to 80% of all AML patients. The likelihood of its success depends on a number of risk factors that will be discussed later in this article.

The second phase is to try to destroy any remaining leukemia cells and help prevent a relapse. The options for this phase are several courses of high-dose cytarabine (ara-C) chemotherapy, allogeneic (donor) stem cell transplant, and/or autologous stem cell transplant.

The high-dose cytarabine (ara-C) chemotherapy is different from the induction therapy in that it is given in higher doses over a period of five days. This process may be repeated as needed.

As for the allogenic (donor) stem cell transplant, patients first receive very high doses of chemotherapy to destroy all bone marrow cells. This is followed by either an allogeneic (from a donor) or autologous (patient’s own) stem cell transplant to restore blood cell production.

Doctors decide which of these treatments is best for an individual patient based on the following criteria:

  • How many courses (cycles) of chemotherapy it took to bring about a remission. If it took more than one course, some doctors recommend that the patient receive a more intensive program, which would involve a stem cell transplant.
  • The availability of a brother, sister, or an unrelated donor who matches the patient’s tissue type. If a close enough tissue match is found then an allogeneic (donor) stem cell transplant may be offered for post-remission therapy.
  • The potential of collecting leukemia-free bone marrow cells from the patient. If cytogenetic studies show that a patient is in remission, collecting stem cells from the patient’s bone marrow or blood for an autologous stem cell transplant is an option for post-remission therapy. Stem cells collected from the patient would be purged (treated in the lab to try to remove or kill any remaining leukemia cells) to lower the chances of relapse.
  • The presence of one or more adverse prognostic factors, such as certain chromosome changes, a very high initial white blood cell count, AML that develops from a myelodysplastic syndrome or after treatment for an earlier cancer, or spread to the central nervous system. These factors might lead doctors to recommend more aggressive therapy, such as a stem cell transplant. On the other hand, for people with good prognostic factors, such as favorable chromosome changes, many doctors might advise holding off on a stem cell transplant unless the disease recurs.
  • The age of the patient. Older patients may not be able to tolerate some of the severe side effects that can occur with stem cell transplants. Therefore, this may not be as practical an option for them.
  • The patient’s wishes. There are many issues that revolve around quality of life that must be discussed. An important issue is the higher chance of early death from allogeneic transplant. This and other issues must be discussed between the patient and the doctor.

Stem cell transplants are intensive treatments with real risks of serious complications, including death, and are not generally recommended except in the most aggressive cases.

In children, the rate of survival for M5 AML Leukemia is between 30 to 60%, depending on the presence (or not) of certain risk factors. Adults (particularly those over the age of sixty) have lower rates.

Risk factors that determine more aggressive cases are: unfavorable chromosome abnormalities, the patient’s age (children over the age of two and younger than the age of twenty fare better), gene mutations, high white blood cell count (>100,000) at the time of diagnosis, and prior blood disorders or cancers.

Consult a doctor for more comprehensive information.