Cancer of the blood or bone marrow

By Vishal Ingole, Medical Research EditorLast modified: October 12, 2011


Leukemia, or blood or bone marrow cancer, can be treated completely with the right treatment and if diagnosed early.

Leukemia Defined

Leukemia refers to cancer of the blood or bone marrow, the place where blood cells are produced. A person suffering from leukemia has an abnormally high production of blood cells, especially the white blood cells or leukocytes. In fact, the word ‘leukemia’ is derived from the Greek words ‘leuka’ meaning white and ‘aima’ which stands for blood. In leukemia, some blood cells, especially white ones, get damaged. As a result of the damage to their DNA, they start to grow and divide in a chaotic manner. Usually, normal blood cells die and are replaced by cells that are produced by the bone marrow. However, abnormal blood cells do not die easily and keep accumulating in the system. As a result, they start occupying more space in the body. In a nutshell, leukemia is a condition where the bad or damaged blood cells outnumber and crowd out normal blood cells.

Types Of Leukemia

Leukemia can be divided into two main groups and two sub-groups. A main group division categorizes leukemia as Acute or Chronic. Acute leukemia refers to the condition where the disease is progressing rapidly. Damaged cells are being produced quickly. Chronic leukemia, on the other hand, progresses slower than the acute form. In this condition, there is more chance for the useful, healthy blood cells to get generated. Leukemia can also be divided into sub-groups based on the type of the affected blood cell. If the marrow that makes lymphocytes is affected, the disease is called ‘lymphocytic leukemia’. On the other hand, if the affected part are marrow cells that later produce red blood cells, the disease is known as ‘myelogenous leukemia’.

Symptoms Of Leukemia

Patients suffering from leukemia experience poor blood clotting, anemia where the patient looks pale and has difficulty breathing, and a weak immune system that makes the patient susceptible to constant infections.

Causes Of Leukemia

Leukemia can be caused by several factors. Some of these factors show a direct link to the cancer or they are strong risk factors. Some factors of leukemia are artificial ionizing radiation, HIV and HTLV-1 viruses, Down syndrome, and maternal fetal transmission, although this factor is rare. Other reasons also include exposure to electromagnetic energy and alkylating chemotherapy agents that have used in previous cancer treatments.

Treatments For Leukemia

Leukemia treatment depends on several issues such as the age and health of the patient and the type of leukemia that the patient suffers from. As the various types of leukemias affect patients differently, their treatments depend on what type of leukemia they have. The type of treatment will also depend on the patient's age and his state of health. Usually people with acute leukemias must undergo induction therapy along with chemotherapy. In case of Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia, patients are given drugs such as Gleevec and they must also undergo a bone marrow transplant. Bone marrow transplant is also helpful for patients suffering from Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia. Even under remission, patients must go for post induction or consolidation therapy.

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