WHAT IS LEUKEMIA?
Leukemia Definiton: leukaemia is a disease of the blood-forming stem cells. Blood cells have only a limited life and therefore have to be constantly reproduced by the body. If a genetic change has occurred in the responsible stem cells, more and more white blood cells, which are not functional, enter the bloodstream and displace the normal blood components. The lack of oxygen-transporting red blood cells produces anemia that leads to oxygen deficiency in the organism. Platelets that are too low for blood clotting will cause bleeding and lack of functional white blood cells will increase the susceptibility to infection. One differentiates between acute and chronic leukemia. Blood cancer is also called hyperleukocytosis or leukosis. Leukemia is the most important thing
Leukemia Types : Different types of leukemia are distinguished. The most important are:
- acute lymphatic leukemia (ALL)
- acute myelogenous leukemia (AML)
- chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)
- chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML)
There is also a whole series of related forms. The delineation of the chronic forms of leukemia to the “non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas”, ie various forms of malignant lymph node cancer, is fluid..
WHAT HAPPENS TO LEUKEMIA IN THE BODY?
The three subgroups of the white blood corpuscles have different tasks and are produced in the healthy body exactly in the quantity and released into the circulating blood in which they perish. This fine-balanced mechanism requires some control and control functions. Among other things, there are inhibiting mechanisms that prevent overproduction.
In the various forms of leukemia this inhibitory function is disturbed and malignant cells can divide freely. In contrast to the healthy cells these leukocytes develop however not so far that they could fulfill their normal function.
Instead, immature precursors of the leukocytes are released into the blood, which are also called blasts . These, by their enormous number, displace normal blood formation in the bone marrow, which leads to the typical symptoms. The amount of these cells can be so large that the blood of the patients appears whitish instead of red – hence also the name leukemia (white blood).
WHAT CAUSES LEUKEMIA?
Leukemia Causes: To date, it is not yet clear what the causes of blood cancer are. However, some risk factors are known or are suspected of increasing the risk of certain forms of leukemia:
- Ionizing radiation
- Drugs or chemicals (eg cytostatics as a cancer agent for chemotherapy , benzene)
- Certain viruses (eg human T-cell leukemia virus = HTLV, a relative of HIV, the AIDS agent)
- Genetic predisposition (for example, twins’ siblings are more common, and the “Philadelphia chromosome” can often be found in CML – chronic myelogenous leukemia)
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF LEUKEMIA?
Leukemia Symptoms: Since the acute forms of leukemia deteriorate quite rapidly, the symptoms are usually more pronounced. Chronic leukemia can remain unrecognized for many years, as patients often do not show any signs of blood cancer. Many complaints are caused by the suppression of normal blood formation:
- red blood cells: anemia with fatigue, pallor, and cardiac arrest
- white blood cells: increased susceptibility to infections
- Blood platelets: coagulation disorders, For example by increased bruises or small skin bleeding.
Unspecific symptoms of leukemia include fever, night sweats, loss of appetite, and weight loss. Other symptoms can be expressed by the fact that the cancer cells settle (form metastases) in other organs and cause displacement phenomena or functional disturbances there. This often leads to an enlargement of the lymph nodes, the spleen and the liver or the removal of leukemia cells in the brain or spinal cord.
In the case of chronic lymphocytic leukemia, several stages are distinguished, depending on whether and which further structures are affected, whether anemia is present or whether the blood platelets are diminished.
IS LEUKEMIA TREATABLE?
Leukemia Treatment: Depending on the type of leukemia, various forms of therapy are used during the course of the disease:
- Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia: several blocks of intensive chemotherapy, then one to two years of lower-dose therapy; additionally irradiation of the skull and injection of medicament into the brain and spinal fluid; possibly bone market transplantation.
- Acute Myelogenous Leukemia: intensive chemotherapy, followed by maintenance therapy; possibly bone market transplant, especially in younger patients.
- Chronic Lymphatic Leukemia: depends on the stage; the treatment takes place only with a certain number of blood corpuscles or complications. Chemotherapy (tablets, infusions), possibly cortisone and local irradiation of lymph nodes. In younger patients possibly bone market transplantation.
- Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia: First interferon injection into the abdominal wall, then chemotherapy (tablets or syringes); special drugs.