7 Warning Signs Of Leukemia

What is Leukemia?

Leukemia is the general term for some different types of blood cancer. There are four main types of leukemia called:
Acute lymphoblastic (lymphocytic) leukemia (ALL)
Acute myeloid (myelogenous) leukemia (AML)
Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)
Chronic myeloid (myelogenous) leukemia (CML).

It is important to know that patients are affected and treated differently for each type of leukemia. These four types of leukemia do have one thing in common – they begin in a cell in the bone marrow. The cell undergoes a change and becomes a type of leukemia cell.

The marrow has two main jobs. The first job is to form myeloid cells. Myeloid leukemia can begin in these cells. The second job is to form lymphocytes, which are a part of the immune system. Lymphocytic leukemia can arise in these cells. The leukemia is called lymphocytic or lymphoblastic if the cancerous change takes place in a type of marrow cell that forms lymphocytes. The leukemia is called myelogenous or myeloid if the cell change takes place in a type of marrow cell that normally goes on to form red cells, some kinds of white cells and platelets. For each type of leukemia, patients are affected and treated differently.

ALL and AML (acute leukemias) are each composed of young cells, known as lymphoblasts or myeloblasts. These cells are sometimes called blasts. Acute leukemias progress rapidly without treatment. CLL and CML have few or no blast cells. CLL and CML often progress slowly compared to acute leukemias, even without immediate treatment.

How Does Leukemia Develop?

Doctors do not know the causes of most cases of leukemia. They do know that once the marrow cell undergoes a leukemic change, the leukemia cells may grow and survive better than normal cells. Over time, the leukemia cells crowd out or suppress the development of normal cells. The rate at which leukemia progresses and how the cells replace the normal blood and marrow cells are different with each type of leukemia.

Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). In these diseases, the original acute leukemia cell goes on to form about a trillion more leukemia cells. These cells are described as nonfunctional because they do not work like normal cells. They also crowd out the normal cells in the marrow. This causes a decrease in the number of new normal cells made in the marrow. This further results in low red cell counts (anemia), low platelet counts (bleeding risk) and low neutrophil counts (infection risk).

Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). The leukemia cell that starts this disease makes blood cells (red cells, white cells and platelets) that function almost like normal cells. The number of red cells is usually less than normal, resulting in anemia. But many white cells and sometimes many platelets are still made. Even though the white cells are nearly normal in how they work, their counts are high and continue to rise. This can cause serious problems if the patient does not get treatment. If untreated, the white cell count can rise so high that blood flow slows down and anemia becomes severe.

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). The leukemia cell that starts this disease makes too many lymphocytes that do not function. These cells replace normal cells in the marrow and lymph nodes. They interfere with the work of normal lymphocytes, which weakens the patient’s immune response. The high number of leukemia cells in the marrow may crowd out normal blood-forming cells and lead to a low red cell count (anemia). A very high number of leukemia cells building up in the marrow also can lead to low white cell (neutrophil) and platelet counts.

Unlike the other three types of leukemia, some patients with CLL may have disease that does not progress for a long time. Some people with CLL have such slight changes that they remain in good health and do not need treatment for long periods of time. Other patients require treatment at the time of diagnosis or soon after.

Estimated number of people in the United States newly diagnosed each year:
AML about 12,950
CLL about 14,570
CML about 5,150
ALL about 5,730
About 274,930 people in the United States are living with, or in remission from, leukemia.

Who’s at Risk?

People can get leukemia at any age. It is most common in people over age 60. The most common types in adults are AML and CLL. Each year, about 3,811 children develop leukemia. ALL is the most common form of leukemia in children.

The term risk factor is used to describe something that may increase the chance that a person will develop leukemia. For most types of leukemia, the risk factors and possible causes are not known. For AML, specific risk factors have been found, but most people with AML do not have these risk factors.

Most people who have these risk factors do not get leukemia – and most people with leukemia do not have these risk factors.

Some risk factors for AML are:
{ Some types of chemotherapies
{ Down syndrome and some other genetic diseases
{ Chronic exposure to benzene. The majority of benzene in the environment comes from petroleum products, however, half of the personal exposure is from cigarette smoke
{ Radiation therapy used to treat cancer

Exposure to high doses of radiation therapy is also a risk factor for ALL and CML. In CLL, while it is not common, some families have more than one blood relative with the disease. Doctors are studying why some families have a higher rate of CLL. Other possible risk factors for the four types of leukemia are continually under study. Leukemia is not contagious (catching).

Signs and Symptoms

Understanding Leukemia — Symptoms

Many types of leukemia produce no obvious symptoms in the early stages. Eventually, symptoms may include any of the following:

  • Anemia and related symptoms, such as fatigue, pallor, and a general feeling of illness.
  • A tendency to bruise or bleed easily, including bleeding from the gums or nose, or blood in the stool or urine.
  • Susceptibility to infections such as sore throat or bronchial pneumonia, which may be accompanied by headache, low-grade fever, mouth sores, or skin rash.
  • Swollen lymph nodes, typically in the neck, armpits, or groin.
  • Loss of appetite and weight.
  • Discomfort under the left lower ribs (caused by a swollen spleen).
  • Very high white blood cell counts may result in visual problems due to retinal hemorrhage, ringing of the ears (tinnitus), mental status changes, prolonged erection (priapism), and stroke.

Call Your Doctor About Leukemia If:

  • You experience any of the symptoms listed in the description section and cannot readily explain their occurrence. Your blood cell count should be tested.
  • You experience unexplained bleeding, high fever, or a seizure. You may need emergency treatment for acute leukemia.
  • You are in remission from leukemia and notice signs of recurrence, such as infection or easy bleeding. You should have a follow-up exam.

Signs and Symptoms via: https://www.webmd.com/cancer/lymphoma/understanding-leukemia-symptoms

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