Resources: Leukemia

Leukemia Defined

Leukemia is a cancer that occurs in the body’s blood-forming tissues, which includes the lymphatic system and bone marrow. It usually begins in the white blood cells that grow and divide in an orderly fashion as the body needs them. In individuals with Leukemia, however, abnormal white blood cells are produced by the body’s bone marrow and these abnormal white blood cells do not function correctly.

Types of Leukemia

There are several types of Leukemia. Some are more common in adults and some more common in children. The main types of Leukemia are as follows:

  • Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL) – ALL is the most common type of Leukemia found in children. Adults are also sometimes diagnosed with ALL.
  • Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML) – AML is the most common type of Acute Leukemia in adults. AML is common in both children and adults.
  • Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL) – CLL is the most chronic adult Leukemia.
  • Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML) – CML is most common in adults and can remain inactive for months to years before the abnormal cells begin to produce rapidly.

Symptoms of Leukemia

A wide range of Leukemia symptoms exist depending on the type of Leukemia. The most common symptoms, which often mimic the flu include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Fever and/or chills
  • Infections
  • Weight loss
  • Constant fatigue and/or weakness
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Bruise or bleed easily
  • Frequent nosebleeds
  • Bone tenderness
  • Excessive sweating
  • Petechiae (small red spots on skin)

Classifications of Leukemia

Leukemia is classified by doctors based on the type of cells involved and the disease’s progression speed. After diagnosis, it is then classified into stages according to the severity of the cancer.

Classification No. 1: How Fast Is Your Leukemia Progressing?

  • Acute Leukemia: In individuals with Acute Leukemia, the abnormal blood cells multiply very fast and the disease becomes worse very quickly.
  • Chronic Leukemia: In individuals with Chronic Leukemia, the blood cells are more mature. The blood cells reproduce at a slower pace and can even act “normally” for a while. In some cases,
  • Chronic Leukemia can go undiagnosed for years.

Classification No. 2: Type of White Blood Cells Affected

  • Myelogenous Leukemia: Myelogenous Leukemia affects the myeloid cells.
  • Lymphocytic Leukemia: Lymphocytic Leukemia affects the lymphoid cells.

Please note that the content contained herein was not prepared by medical professionals and should not be construed as medical advice. Please address all medical questions, concerns, and symptoms with your doctor.

Diagnosing Leukemia

The best way to ascertain appropriate treatment is through quick diagnosis of the disease. Survival time relies on rapid diagnosis and immediate treatment. There are various forms of tests available to screen for Leukemia.

They include, but may not be limited to, the following:

  • Physical Examination: During a physical examination, your doctor can check for signs of leukemia like swollen lymph nodes and pale skin.
  • Blood Tests: Blood tests can help determine if there are abnormal levels of white blood cells or platelets.
  • Bone Marrow Test: A bone marrow test is where a sample of bone marrow is removed from the hipbone with a needle. The bone marrow sample is then analyzed to look for Leukemia cells.

Additional testing to determine the type of Leukemia and how far it’s spread may also be done.

Survival of Leukemia requires diligence on both the part of the patient and the doctor. Make sure your doctor knows if you were ever exposed to the chemical Benzene, or other workplace chemicals, get checkups regularly, and know the symptoms of Leukemia.

Obtaining Treatment for Leukemia

Determining the right therapies for you or your loved one takes time you do not have. You want the best treatment available, but finding it can seem daunting. Deciding on the best course of action is important. As part of that course, our cancer family advocates can assist you with questions regarding the various issues you may have.

We understand that your time is too valuable to spend hours on research. Therefore, we have compiled a list of cancer centers for your convenience. These centers are designated by the National Cancer Institute as Comprehensive Cancer Centers and are recognized for scientific excellence and extensive resources. This list will provide a good starting point for you to find treatment facilities in your area.


Leukemia Treatment Options

Once you or your loved one is diagnosed with Leukemia, researching to determine your course of action is time sensitive. You must quickly learn about this disease from a specialist and your doctor will run tests to learn how extensive the disease is and will designate a cancer stage based upon the test results. At that point, your medical team will discuss treatment options with you.

Leukemia treatment is dependent upon several factors, including:

  • The type of Leukemia
  • Whether or not it has spread to lymph nodes or other parts of the body
  • Your health and personal preferences

The cancer stage is an important aspect in deciding on the level and type of treatment. This is something you will want to discuss with your doctors so you have a good understanding of it.

Regardless of the stage or level of your diagnosis, you should discuss with your doctors alleviating symptoms and pain management as part of your overall care.

There are various options to consider, including:

  • Radiation therapy
  • Pain-relieving drugs
  • Natural remedies

Consult your doctor to determine what is appropriate for your situation.

It is important that you understand the goal of your Leukemia treatment before it begins. First, you want to know whether the goal is to fight the cancer or relieve the symptoms. Additionally, you want to be clear on the benefits and risks of the various treatment options. Consider engaging the assistance of a family member or third party to assist you in tracking and recording conversations with your medical team. The best decisions can only be made after careful consideration of your diagnosis, and determining the most appropriate treatment options for your Leukemia.

As mentioned, various treatments are available for Leukemia. Here are some options:

  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill Leukemia cells and is an extremely popular form of Leukemia treatment.
  • Biological Therapy: Biological Therapy is a form of treatment that assists the body in recognizing and attacking Leukemia cells.
  • Targeted Therapy: Targeted Therapy is where drugs attack weaknesses in Leukemia cells.
  • Radiation Therapy: Radiation Therapy uses radiation to damage Leukemia cells.
  • Stem Cell Transplant: A Stem Cell Transplant replaces damaged bone barrow with healthy bone marrow through an infusion of stem cells that assist in rebuilding healthy bone marrow.