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.

References:

http://www.ped-onc.org/diseases/leuk.html

http://www.medicinenet.com/multiple_myeloma/article.htm

http://www.carcinoma.com/

http://cancer.about.com/od/cancerlistaz/a/typesofcancers.htm

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.

http://www.marrow.org/PATIENT/Undrstnd_Disease_Treat/Lrn_about_Disease/ALL/index.html

http://www.cancer.org/cancer/leukemia-acutelymphocyticallinadults/index

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.

Long Term Side Effects of Leukemia Treatment

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

Between 1996 and 2002, 49 percent of people diagnosed with leukemia lived for at least five years after their diagnosis (“Leukemia Facts and Statistics”). Even though this is much higher than the 14 percent survival rate between 1960 and 1963, surviving the cancer is not the end of their problems. As more people are surviving longer, researchers are discovering additional long term side effects from leukemia treatments. Developing new cancers, increased risk of infection, heart problems, and sexual development problems are just some of the possible side effects leukemia survivors should be prepared for (“Late Effects of Treatment for Childhood Cancer”). The side effects from the treatment of leukemia can stay with cancer survivors for the rest of their lives and create many new medical issues they will have to deal with.

Leukemia is a cancer of the blood which develops in the bone marrow, which is the sponge-like material inside of bones causing the white blood cells, which are supposed to fight infection, not to mature correctly, making them useless in fighting against infections. The cells also reproduce continuously even when there is no space for them, taking the space from healthy cells and therefore preventing them from forming. Leukemia is the most common type of childhood cancer and therefore has the most long term survivors (“Leukemia”). There are many ways to treat leukemia: chemotherapy, radiation, bone marrow transplants, medications, and more, each treatment method has different long term and short term side effects. (“Treatment for leukemia”).

One of the most feared side effects from leukemia treatment is developing a new cancer or the old cancer recurring. The same treatments that are designed to help patients survive cancers can also cause cancers to form. The large doses of treatments, chemotherapy, using drugs that can destroy cancer cells, or radiation therapy, using high concentrations of radiation to stop cancer cells from reproducing, given to cancer patients makes them more vulnerable to developing future cancers than other people who haven’t undergone the intensive treatments for cancer (“Chemotherapy and You: A Guide to Self-Help During Cancer Treatment”) (“Introduction to Cancer Therapy (Radiation Oncology)”). In fact, radiation treatment and chemotherapy are known to increase the risk of developing cancer, but there is not much known about how other treatment options affect a patient’s chances of developing another cancer and more research is still being done in that area (“Long term side effects of chemotherapy”).

Lowered resistance to infection is another side effect of cancer treatments. Chemotherapy uses medications to kill cancer cells, but they also kill healthy cells, weakening patients’ bodies and making them less effective at fighting off infection, small problems like a cold or the flu could cause much more damage to someone who has recently undergone chemotherapy treatment. Their bodies usually regain the ability to fight off infections again within a few months, but it can take longer, and patients must be careful to avoid disease during this time (“Coping with Side Effects” “Chemotherapy and You: A Guide to Self-Help during Cancer Treatment”). They should remain mostly isolated to avoid contact with germs. Eating well during treatment is important as well; a healthy diet will help a patient’s body regain its strength and be better able to fight off infections and diseases (“Take Care of Yourself” “Chemotherapy and You: A Guide to Self-Help during Cancer Treatment”).

Cardiovascular side effects are another serious side effect of treatments for leukemia. Cancer survivors who have been treated with chemotherapy or radiation have a much higher risks of developing serious cardiac problems. One of these problems is cardiomyopathy, which is a disease when the heart “becomes inflamed and doesn’t work as well as it should” (“Cardiomyopathy”). There is a high risk for long term cancer survivors, about 15 years after treatment, to contract this disease. Because, until recently, there have been only a few survivors who lived 15 years, these studies are just beginning and not much is known about the cause of this increased risk. Cancer survivors should have regular echocardiograms to look for symptoms of cardiomyopathy and other heart problems they are at risk for due to the treatments they had (“Childhood Cancer Survivors May Experience Heart Problems Sooner”).

One more side effect of leukemia treatment is problems with sexual development. While it is not very common, radiation in men can affect the testosterone levels and cause a delayed or an accelerated puberty and radiation in the area of the brain in women can also cause an early puberty. Another sexual development side effect is that it can be harder for cancer survivors to produce children because of the effects of the treatment on their bodies, radiation can cause damage to reproductive organs and/or the brain; however, it is not impossible and there are more advancements being made to help repair the damage caused by treatment. There are currently no known risks to the children of cancer survivors though there are studies being done to determine if there is a link between children of cancer survivors and inborn abnormalities. According to Adriana Richards, a cancer information specialist with the National Cancer Institute, “cancer is not hereditary” and there is no risk of passing on cancer or the risk of cancer to survivor’s children. The risk of future problems with sexual development is greatly reduced in children who are younger when they are treated because their bodies are still developing and it is easier for them to repair the damage done by the radiation (“Childhood Cancer: Late Effects of Cancer Treatment”) (“Long Term and Late Effects of Treatment for Blood Cancers”).

Even after surviving leukemia, patients will still have many medical concerns throughout their lives. It is essential that cancer survivors have medical check ups regularly to help notice the late appearing side effects they may have, and to treat them quickly. Repeat cancers, increased vulnerability to infections, heart problems, and sexual development issues are only some of the many long term side effects survivors must be aware of. Surviving leukemia is just the beginning, more side effects are being found all the time and there is no way for the survivors to be prepared for what new problems they will have to face.

Leukemia Vs. Cholesterol Medicine

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

The Effects of Cholesterol medicine on the red blood cells.The first steps in treating high cholesterol levels are:

  • regular physical activity
  • healthy eating

The latter means cutting down on fats and replacing saturated fats with unsaturated alternatives.
Without cholesterol your body wouldn’t work: it’s vital to ensure the body’s normal function. It forms part of the outer membrane that surrounds the cell. It’s used to insulate nerve fibers (and so make nerve signals travel properly) and make hormones, which carry signals around the body. However, you don’t want your cholesterol to be to high. It is sometimes necessary to reduce your cholesterol level.

Cholesterol medicine is designed to lower you lipid levels in your blood stream. Cholesterol medicine should not be taken for to long and should be checked often. After prolonged use, it damages the red blood cells. Thus, the white blood cell is much higher than it should be. Overpowering the red blood cells. Giving the appearance of having leukemia.

Leukemia is any of various acute or chronic diseases of the bone marrow in which there is unrestrained production of white blood cells.
The sympton are anemia, impaired blood clotting, and enlargement of the lymph nodes, liver, and spleen. The red blood cells are crowded out by the white blood cells. Blasts of white blood cells, leaves you wide open to infection. The blasts of white blood cells, causes hemoraging and they may invade the central nervous system, causing dizziness, headache, or fever. If untreated, death may occur. Treatment may include chemotherapy with anticancer drugs, radiation therapy, blood and plasma transfusions, and bone marrow transplantation.

Recent studies have indicated that blood from a newborn infant’s umbilical cord and placenta (called cord blood) can be used effectively instead of marrow transplants in some leukemia’s.

Or you may have taken your cholesterol medicine far to long, giving the appearance of this serous disease. Cholesterol medicine should not be taken no longer than 6 months and should be checked often. Often times the lipid reducing drug attacks the red blood cells, and often times you may need to discontinue your cholesterol medicine. It will take about 6 to 9 months for your to get your strength back and for your red blood cells, to start increasing. Routine complete blood count should be taken. Often times after 6 to 9 months of no cholesterol medicine, you will be back to your old self.

Caution should be taken when taking cholesterol medicine. Be sure that you include red meat in your diet, with foods that burn fat, such as leafy green lettuce, sweet peppers, olives and other green vegetables. Remember not to over due the vegetables, as this increases your calcium. A 3 to 4 oz serving of meat everyday. This includes chicken, beef, turkey and some pork and fish.

If you have been diagnosed with leukemia and have recently taken cholesterol medicine, than stop the cholesterol medicine, and most of the time no additional treatment is necessary, except eating a well balanced diet and a little exercise.

Leukemia in Dogs

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

Leukemia in dogs is a chronic or acute condition whose cause in dogs is not definitely known at this time. This is a disease that involves the dogs blood, which has been altered some way and the end result of this alteration is a marked increase in the dog’s white blood cells and a decrease in the red blood cells. When this disease occurs in a dog the dog’s blood is a much lighter color and will have a specific gravity which will show up in the urinalysis.

Symptoms of Leukemia include the dog bruising easily, bleeding easily, the dog will have an immune system that does not work correctly and is noticeable by infections that reoccur and take a long time to heal, the dog will have a weight loss and an appetite loss, it may be lethargic, its gums will probably be gray instead of pink, there may be diarrhea and the dog may be lame. If a dog owner notices any of these symptoms, the dog should be taken to their veterinarian (vet) so that a diagnosis of the health condition can be performed and treatment can begin.

Diagnosing leukemia in dogs is accomplished by a licensed veterinarian on a dog whose owner has noticed that there is symptoms occurring with the dog that warranted a visit to the vet. The vet will begin the diagnosing task with taking a short medical history and will perform a physical examination. Along with the physical examination, the vet will probably perform a blood test which will show the number of white blood cells that the dog has in relationship to the number of red blood cells. This blood test will definitely diagnose whether or not the dog has leukemia. The vet may also perform a urinalysis, x-rays of the chest and abdomen, ultrasound of the abdomen and bone marrow aspirate.

Treating leukemia in dogs is often geared toward stopping the cancer cell growth by use of chemotherapy and the dog may be given a blood transfusion. Other treatments may be prescribed by the vet as they see fit with consideration of the individual circumstances of the dog diagnosed with leukemia. Even with these types of treatments, the prognosis for a dog with leukemia may not be very favorable. If the dog does not expire from the leukemia, there is always a chance that a secondary disease, such as anemia, will eventually take the dog’s life.

Leukemia: The Facts

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

Every year, almost 27,000 adults and in excess of 2,000 children in the United States are diagnosed with leukemia. Leukemia is a form of cancer. Cancer comes in the form of 100 different diseases that all carry two common characteristics. The first characteristic is that certain cells in the body become abnormal, and the second characteristic is that the body constantly produces these abnormal cells. Leukemia is specifically a cancer of the blood cells. It originates in the bone marrow. When leukemia develops, the body produces abnormally large amounts of white blood cells that look different from normal blood cells, and do not work correctly.

There are many types of leukemia, and they are grouped as being either acute or chronic, by how quickly the disease develops or worsens, and the type of blood cell that is weakened. In acute types of leukemia, the disease gets worse quickly, while in chronic leukemia, the disease gets worse gradually. Leukemia can occur in both types of white blood cells, lymphoid or myeloid cells. When it is the lymphoid cells that are targeted, it is termed lymphocytic leukemia. When the myeloid cells are targeted, it is referred to as myelogenous leukemia.

The most common form of leukemia in adults is called acute myelogenous leukemia, or AML, and also can affect children. This type is also referred to as nonlymphocytic leukemia, or ANLL. AML is not inherited, and it is not contagious. The causes of AML are not known, but studies show that cigarette smoking, benzene exposure, and chemotherapy drugs may be factors. The characteristics of AML are uncontrolled growing and accumulation of cells called “leukemic blasts,” which do not act like normal blood cells, and the blocked production of marrow cells. About 10,100 cases of AML are reported every year, mainly in adults. The chances of developing AML increase ten to one between the ages of 30 and 70 years old.

Acute lymphocytic leukemia, or ALL, is the most common type of leukemia in young children. It can also affect adults, mainly over 65 years old, but primarily is seen in children under 10. As an acute type of leukemia, ALL progresses quickly. It is not inherited, but has been linked to radiation doses and exposure to toxins before birth or at an early age. Approximately 4,000 cases are diagnosed every year in the United States.

Chronic myelogenous leukemia, or CML, is a fairly uncommon form of leukemia that is found primarily in adults. CML is technically not inherited, but it is related to the genetic code. Overproduction of white blood cells is linked to the chromosome in the genetic structure called the Philadelphia chromosome in bone marrow cells. About 5,000 cases of CML are diagnosed every year in the United States. Chemotherapy will send CML into remission, but the only known cure, at this point, is stem cell transplants.

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia, or CLL, is generally found in adults over the age of 55. It never affects children, but is rarely found in younger adults. CLL is the most common form of older adult leukemia. Over 75% of its cases are diagnosed after the age of 60. This type of leukemia progresses at such a slow rate, that there usually is not enough time for treatment once symptoms are evident. About 7000 cases are diagnosed every year, and there is currently no cure.

Since leukemia affects different parts of the blood, there are various different symptoms. People that are anemic, meaning that they don’t have enough red blood cells, usually begin by being constantly tired, short of breath, or pale. A person that does not have enough white blood cells may develop infections more easily, have a mild fever, or have pain in the bones or joints. Finally, a patient with a low platelet count will bleed easily, develop bruising easily, or may have a very tough time healing cuts or wounds. Sometimes, people have no symptoms and just find out during a blood test.

Diagnosis is done in a few ways. A doctor will first inquire about the patient’s medical history and do a physical. The doctor will then check for swelling in the liver, swelling in the spleen, lymph nodes, groin, and in the neck. Blood tests are helpful because they show the nature of the cells, and let the doctor look at them in person. They do not always determine the type of leukemia though. To determine the exact type of leukemia, a hematologist, oncologist, or pathologist has to examine bone marrow from the patient under a microscope. The marrow is drawn using a needle that is inserted into a large bone, usually the hip, and removing a small bit of liquid marrow. This is called a bone marrow aspiration. To find out the extent of the disease, a doctor may order a spinal tap to check for leukemia in the fluid around the brain and spinal cord, or chest x-rays can show disease in the chest.

Treatment for leukemia depends on many things. A patients age, symptoms, overall health, extent of the disease, whether the disease has been treated before, and the specific features of the cells can all weigh on the decision. Acute leukemia patients need to be treated immediately. Their treatment is focused on remission, or the killing of the cancer cells. Many forms of acute leukemia can be cured. Chronic leukemia patients don’t necessarily need immediate treatment. They need to check in with their doctor regularly, but they don’t need treatment until the disease shows symptoms. Chronic leukemia rarely can be cured.

Most leukemia patients are treated with chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is defined as the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. It depends on the type of cancer, but patients can be given one drug, or a combination of two drugs to kill the cancer. Some are given orally, but most are intravenously injected (IV) or given by catheter. Chemotherapy is given in cycles; treatment cycle, then recovery cycle.

Sometimes, radiation therapy is used with chemotherapy for leukemia. Radiation is defined as using high-energy rays to damage cancer cells and stop them from growing. Radiation therapy can be directed at one part of the body for specific cases, or the entire body (called total-body irradiation) which is usually done before a bone marrow transplant.

Bone marrow transplants are done on some patients to replace the cancerous marrow that is killed during radiation. This marrow can come from a donor, or form the patient’s own body that has been drawn out prior to the radiation treatment. Transplant patients are usually kept in the hospital for several weeks after the treatment to protect against infection.

Success rates have risen dramatically over the years. Now, about 80 percent of children with ALL are cured. About 40 percent of children with AML are cured, and just a little less for adults. Chronic cases opf leukemia are still very tough to see any curing, but the survival period has risen from about three years to six years. In any case, many foundations such as St. Jude Hospital, have been working for years to find a cure to this and other cancers. Scientists have made huge strides in the fight against leukemia, and will continue until they find a cure.

Learn a Little Leukemia

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

Leukemia is a form of cancer. All cancers are a result of excessive cells being produced somewhere in the body. In the case of leukemia, the blood is the affected body part. Blood cells are produced by bone marrow, a spongy material located in the center of large bones.

Bone marrow contains two types of stem cells, stromal and hematopoietic. Stromal cells become many different tissue types, including nerve tissue, fat, cartilage, and bone. Hematopoietic cells become the three types of blood cells found in the body: red blood cells (erythrocytes), white blood cells (leukocytes), and platelets (thrombocytes).

Red blood cells transport oxygen to all body tissues, platelets are responsible for clotting blood, and white blood cells are a crucial part of the body’s immune system as infection-fighters. When functioning normally, blood cells divide and reproduce themselves in an orderly manner, keeping a proper balance of all types. When a white blood cell mutates and divides, a rapid reproduction of the abnormal cell begins. The abnormal cells increase in number and do not die off at the proper rate of normal white blood cells; this crowds out the other types of cells, causing an imbalance in the blood.

When the production of red blood cells is reduced, the situation becomes anemia, meaning not enough oxygen is getting to the tissues. If not enough platelets are being produced, the patient will bruise easily and cuts will bleed profusely. A lack of healthy white blood cells compromises the immune system and makes the person susceptible to many dangerous health situations; a fatality becomes a possibility with a minor infection.

All leukemias are classified as either acute or chronic. Acute leukemias are aggressive in nature and progress very quickly. It is marked by an abnormal growth of immature cells. Chronic leukemia, in comparison, progresses slowly and is marked by an excessive number of mature cells and a small amount of immature cells (known as “blasts”).

There are several types of white blood cells (leukocytes) circulating through the body, including lymphocytes and myeloctyes.

Lymphocytic (lymphoblastic) leukemia occurs when the malfunctioning cells are lymphocytes. Lymphocytes include T-cells and B-cells. T-lymphocytes are produced in the marrow but mature in the thymus (a gland located in the upper chest cavity.). B-lymphocytes are produced in the bone marrow and also mature there.

Lymph is a clear, watery fluid that contains lymphocytes. It travels along a network of thin tubes that are branched throughout the body via lymph vessels. Lymph nodes are bean-shaped clusters of lymphocytes located in various organs, such as the spleen, abdomen, pelvis, neck, and underarms. In acute leukemias, the developing lymphocytes do not mature, they build up in the lymph nodes, causing them to swell.

Myelocytic leukemia occurs when the abnormal cells are myeloctyes, such as basophils, esoinophils, and neutrophils (all bacteria killers). Myelocytes are also known as granulocytes, and myelocytic leukemia can be referred to as granulocytic leukemia due to the tiny granules that are found inside the cell.
The seven types of leukemia are as follow:

1) Adult Acute Lymphoctyic (Lymphoblastic) Leukemia(Adult ALL) and

2) Childhood Acute Lymphocytic (Lymphoblastic) Leukemia (Childhood ALL):

Both of these are marked by too many immature lymphocytes in both the bone marrow and the blood, and in many cases a decreased amount of platelets. This leukemia has a high success rate for cures and is considered by many to be the easiest to treat. This is the most common childhood cancer, accounting for approximately 85% of the cases.

3) Adult Acute Myeloid Leukemia (Adult AML), known also as Acute Non-Lymphoctyic Leukemia (ANLL) and

4) Childhood Acute Myeloid Leukemia (Childhood AML):

In these forms of leukemia, there are excessive numbers of immature granulocytes (myeloctyes) and they live longer than normal, healthy white blood cells.

5) Chronic Myelogenous (Granuloctyic) Leukemia (CML): Again, there are too many myelocytes that live longer than the normal lifespan and do not grow to maturity. This type of leukemia is different than the others in that the genetic material of the cells has the Philadelphia chromosome. Even when treatment has been completed, this chromosome remains.

6) Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL): This is the most common form of leukemia and tends to affect the portion of the population that is sixty years of age or older. An excessive number of white blood cells are created and they do not mature properly.

7) Hairy-Cell Leukemia (HCL): Under the microscope, the cancer cells of this rare leukemia appear to have hair growing out around their edges. HCL causes low numbers of all the blood cell types and the cancerous cells are found in the bone marrow as well as the blood.

Symptoms
In acute cases, symptoms develop and advance quickly. In chronic cases, the symptoms develop gradually. Extreme fatigue, frequent infections, night sweats, loss of appetite and/or weight, unexplained fevers, and easy bleeding or bruising are common symptoms to all leukemias.

Other symptoms that may be experienced due to the cancerous cells clustering in various body parts might include seizures, headaches, balance problems, muscle spasms, joint pain, bone pain, swelling of the testicles, vision problems, shortness of breath, stomach aches, and painful swelling in lymph node areas, such as the neck, groin, and underarm.

Treatment
Treatment for leukemia varies based upon, among other things, what type it is, how far along it is, if the patient has other medical conditions that may affect the ability to tolerate the harsh standard treatments of chemotherapy and radiation.
Chemotherapy is the name given to a variety of cancer-fighting drugs. Depending on the medication, it may be given orally (through the mouth), intravenously (through the vein), intrathecally (through the spine), or subcutaneously (in a shot form).

External radiation therapy is the use of high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells. This is frequently used on certain brain areas that are inaccessible to any of the chemotherapy medications. These areas are called “sanctuary sites” and medical science is currently unable to confirm or deny existence the existence of leukemia cells in these areas.

As a leukemia survivor, I can tell you that the treatment felt worse than the original sickness that sent me to the emergency room. But as a survivor I can also say that it’s worth the fight. If you are reading this because you have been diagnosed, my advice to you is to hang in there. Just take it one day at a time, one minute at a time. There will certainly be days when it feels like it’s not worth it, but when you come out on the other side of the long, dark tunnel, it will fade away to a memory in the light of living again.

As for me, they tell me I should have been dead on arrival at the hospital because my blood count was so bad, but by the grace of God, here I am, typing out my story and hoping to encourage someone else.