Leukemia is an umbrella term for cancers of the blood. The type of cancer depends on the type of blood cell that results in cancer and whether it grows quickly or slowly. The condition is quite prevalent in adults older than 55. However, it is also the most common cancer in children younger than 15 years.
There are four main types of leukemia:
The exact cause of leukemia is unclear to researchers. However, there are risk factors attributed to this condition:
Leukemia may be suspected if you have worrying symptoms or certain risk factors. A doctor will always begin by evaluating your complete history and performing a physical examination.
However, since leukemia cannot be fully diagnosed by a physical exam, doctors will make a diagnosis using:
Note: A biopsy and aspiration of the bone marrow are often used to confirm a diagnosis.
Tests for leukemia
There exist several tests that doctors can use to diagnose leukemia. RBC, WBC, and platelet count are determined via a complete blood count. Your blood can also be examined under a microscope to see if the cells have an odd appearance.
Staging reveals the extent of cancer’s spread and progression and aids a doctor in estimating your prognosis.
Based on how cancer cells appear under a microscope and the types of cells involves, AML and ALL are staged. Based on the WBC count at the time of diagnosis, ALL and CLL are staged. AML and CML are staged based on the presence of immature white blood cells, or myeloblasts, in the blood and bone marrow.
Treatment for leukemia usually involves one or more of the following:
There are several types of leukemia, including: Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) Hairy cell leukemia (HCL)
The treatment options for leukemia depend on several factors, including the type and stage of leukemia, the person's overall health, and their individual needs. Common treatment modalities include: Chemotherapy: The use of powerful medications to destroy cancer cells. Radiation therapy: High-energy X-rays or other forms of radiation to kill cancer cells. Stem cell transplantation: Infusion of healthy stem cells to replace damaged or cancerous cells. Targeted therapy: Drugs that specifically target cancer cells based on their genetic characteristics. Immunotherapy: Treatment that boosts the body's immune system to fight cancer cells.
The curability of leukemia depends on several factors, including the type and stage of the disease, the individual's response to treatment, and other specific characteristics. Some types of leukemia, such as certain subtypes of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) in children, have high cure rates with appropriate treatment. However, the prognosis and outcomes for leukemia can vary widely, and long-term follow-up is often necessary even after successful treatment.