Leukemia is a type of blood cancer that occurs in the body’s blood-forming tissues, including the bone marrow and the lymphatic system. It’s marked by the abnormal growth of unhealthy or non-functional white blood cells in a person’s body, which soon outnumber the red blood cells and platelets.
White blood cells are an essential part of our immune system. They protect our body from bacteria, viruses, and fungi, as well as from abnormal cells. But in Leukemia, white blood cells don’t function properly and leave the body vulnerable to infections and diseases. The onset of Leukemia is usually chronic, which progresses slowly and causes negligible symptoms.
What are the symptoms that you need to look out for?
In the early stages, Leukemia doesn’t show any signs or symptoms. When symptoms do appear, they can include:
- Excessive sweating
- Weakness and fatigue
- Sudden weight loss
- Pain and tenderness in bones and joints
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Liver or spleen enlargement
- Petechiae, which is marked by red spots on the skin
- Increased vulnerability to bleeding and bruising
- Frequent nosebleeds
- Migraines and seizure
- Fever and chills
- Chronic infections
The exact cause of Leukemia is unknown. However, various factors can elevate the risk of developing Leukemia. These factors can include:
- A history of cancer in the family
- Excessive smoking can increase the risk of acute myelogenous Leukemia.
- Certain genetic disorders like Down syndrome are associated with an increased risk of Leukemia.
- Myelodysplastic syndrome and other blood disorders can develop into Leukemia.
- Exposure to high-intensity radiations
- Exposure to carcinogenic chemicals like benzene can increase the risk of some kinds of Leukemia.
Markers of Leukemia can be found in a routine blood test before symptoms begin. Our doctors will assess the physical signs such as swollen lymph nodes or spleen and go through your medical history. If our doctors suspect cancer, they will need to check for signs of Leukemia in your blood or bone marrow. These tests may include:
- Blood test – They will take a blood sample to detect any abnormality in the count of red blood cells, white blood cells and blood platelets.
- Bone marrow test – They will take some bone marrow from your hip bone for a thorough examination.
- Lumbar puncture – They will collect a sample of your spinal fluid to determine whether cancer has spread to the central nervous system.
- Liver function test – They will run liver tests to determine whether cancer has spread to the liver or not.
- Imaging tests – They will order CT, MRI, and PET scans to spot the signs of Leukemia.
- Flow cytometry – It is done in bone marrow sample to identify type of leukemia.>li
- Cytogenetics- It is also done in bone marrow sample to identify targeted therapy and risk category.
The treatment for Leukemia might depend upon cancer’s type and risk category. It can include:
- Chemotherapy – Our medical oncologists will use anticancer drugs to target unhealthy and cancerous cells.
- Stem cell transplantation – Our bone marrow transplant physician will replace damaged and diseased bone marrow with healthy bone marrow from a donor or from the patient’s marrow after recovery.
- Biological immunotherapy – They will use specialized drugs that help your immune system recognize and destroy unhealthy cells.
- Targeted therapy – They will use specific drugs to target certain weaknesses in the cancerous cell’s structure and block and prevent them from spreading.