Leukemia is a form of cancer wherein blood forming cells of the body are attacked. Some also prefer to call it blood cancer or bone marrow cancer. Production of the white blood cells becomes abnormal and the immature cells are damaged; they don’t have a long life span. There are several different types of leukemia. Acute leukemia is one that develops from early cells and keeps multiplying. Chronic leukemia, on the other hand, develops from mature cells. Leukemia can also be Myelogenous (that develops from myeloid cells), or Lymphocytic (that evolves from lymphocytes in the marrow).
What Causes Leukemia?
Leukemia can affect anybody irrespective of the age. There are different factors that may be responsible. Professionals in this field are yet to find a direct cause. However, following are the main factors:
- Exposure to intense radiation as can happen in a nuclear reactor plant.
- Chain smoking and tobacco chewing has considerably been identified to be a contributing factor.
- Prolonged exposure to chemotherapy has also been qualified as a risk factor though this is rare.
- In chemical intense industries, some chemicals have been noted to cause leukemia.
- In some cases of chronic leukemia, it has been noted to be genetic though it’s not yet 100% verified.
- Myelodysplastic syndrome in a person is also categorized as a risk factor.
- Human T-cell leukemia virus-1 can cause leukemia and is transferable from mother to child, sexual contact, blood transfusions, etc.
What Are Its Symptoms?
Many of the symptoms tend to conceal themselves under the signs of a different disease. Then how does one know whether he/she is suffering from leukemia? The best way is to consult a medical expert when one observes inconclusive symptoms like:
- Feeling weak and a farfetched fever
- Abdominal pain and feeling full
- Fatigue and experiencing physical exercise intolerance
- Abnormal bleeding
- Weight loss and enlargement of lymph nodes, spleen or liver
- Poor blood clotting system
Like any other cancer, the effects of leukemia too can be suppressed and the victim can live a full life. However, this depends on the age, type of leukemia, and the state of health. For cases of acute leukemia, it is recommended that the treatment begins immediately; it usually involves both induction and chemotherapy, and later, bone marrow transplant. In chronic leukemia, the patient is put under medication like Gleevec, whose main work is to suppress the cancer and not curing it. Sprycel and Tarigna may be given to the patients for whom Gleevec didn’t work. Bone marrow transplant is also done in some cases.
This is not all for patients of leukemia; they need to frequently visit the doctor for various tests during the process of remission.