Often when people hear the world leukemia, they think of young children battling cancer. The reality of cancer is that anyone from any age group can develop this horrible disease. Leukemia is a type of cancer that attacks your blood cells by raising the number of white blood cells in the body, which do not work properly. The sad truth is that there is no sure way to prevent leukemia. In a healthy body, red blood cells are created in the billions everyday to help fight of blood clots and carry oxygen. In the case of leukemia, the white cells are the dominate cells created, which leave the body with a low chance of survival. Not only that, there are multiple types of leukemia with certain demographic groups more susceptible than others.
Types of Leukemia
Unfortunately, there are four types of leukemia that a person can develop during their lifetime, regardless of age. These types are:
- Acute myeloid leukemia (AML): This type of leukemia is caused by an underdevelopment or abnormalities in the DNA of the bone marrow. The immature bone marrow leads to an increase of white blood cells that cause the bone marrow to stop working. For most, remission is possible if early detection and treatment occurs.
- Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL): This type of cancer is commonly found in infants and children. The spread of this type of cancer occurs when the white cells begin to grow at a rapid rate. Some of the factors that have been linked to this type of cancer include: radiation exposure, viral infections and inherited diseases such as down syndrome. Children have a higher rate of remission than older adults who are diagnosed with this type of leukemia.
- Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML): This form of cancer occurs when the myeloid cells undergo a genetic change. Due to this genetic change in cells, the normal cells do not have the chance to properly fight infections. This form of leukemia is common among adults and is a slow growing form of cancer.
- Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL): This form of leukemia affects the blood cells as well as the bone marrow. With this type of cancer, the white blood cell count increases but they do not work properly. If a person were to have cancer, this would be the one with the highest survival rate.
Stages of Cancer
There is a European way to stage cancers and a more common way used in the United States. Depending on the type of cancer, blood count, spreading of the white blood cells and bone marrow, the stages of cancer are determined. In Europe, the stages are determined using the Binet system of A, B and C. In the USA, the Rai system using 0-4 is used. The lower the number such as 0, the lower the risk of further progression of cancer.
A blood test is one of the first test to detect a problem with white cell count. The second and more accurate testing of leukemia is through a bone marrow test.
After a diagnosis of leukemia has been confirmed, there are certain treatments that patients can undergo. These treatments include:
Chemotherapy: This drug therapy can be administered through a pill, injections or fluid form around the spinal cord.
Surgery: Surgery happens if there are cancer cells in places such as the spleen, which can be removed via a splenectomy. This type of surgery can prevent the cancer cells from spreading to other organs.
Stem cell transplant: By replacing the cancerous bone marrow in the body, it has a better chance of survival.
Radiation: Radiation is often coupled with chemotherapy and it allows the use of high-energy x-rays to kill off the cancer cells.