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Leukemia: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Leukemia or blood cancer is a condition when the body produces abnormally many white blood cells. Check out a full explanation of the symptoms, causes, and how to treat it in the following review.

Leukemia: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment

What is Leukemia?

Leukemia occurs when the production of white blood cells is more than usual. White blood cells are part of the body’s immune system so they play an important role in fighting infection and disease.

Abnormal and excessive production of white blood cells can interfere with the body’s function of fighting infection.

There are many types of leukemia that can occur. Some are prone to afflict children, while some other types are more common in adults.

Symptoms of Leukemia

Symptoms that can appear depend on the type suffered. In general, the symptoms of this disease include:

  • Fever.
  • Excessive fatigue.
  • Easy to get infected.
  • Easy bruising or bleeding (e.g. nosebleeds, bleeding gums, small red spots; purplish/dark patches on skin)
  • Enlarged liver or spleen, swollen lymph nodes.
  • Weight loss.
  • pale skin
  • Hard to breathe.
  • Pain or fullness in the ribs on the left.
  • Excessive sweating, especially at night.
  • Pain in bones or joints.

When is the Right Time to See a Doctor?

Check with your doctor immediately if you experience the symptoms mentioned above, especially if these conditions worry you.

Symptoms of leukemia can appear vague and resemble other illnesses, such as the flu. This is what makes the symptoms often overlooked.

A thorough examination is needed to diagnose this disease. That way, treatment can be done early.

Also Read: 5 Types of Cancer That Makes You Constantly Nosebleed

Causes of Leukemia

Leukemia is caused by abnormalities in the white blood cells that make the cells grow abnormally out of control. However, the conditions that cause this are not known with certainty.

Although the cause is not clear, leukemia can be caused by a combination of genetic factors and environmental factors.

Several factors can increase the risk of this disease, including:

  • Family history of similar conditions.
  • Have had radiation therapy or chemotherapy to treat cancer.
  • Have genetic disorders, such as neurofibromatosis and Down syndrome.
  • Working in an environment with radiation or certain chemicals.
  • Have a smoking habit or are often exposed to cigarette smoke.

Diagnosis of Leukemia

Before determining the diagnosis, the doctor will examine the patient’s condition to see whether or not there are signs of this disease. The doctor may also ask the patient’s medical history.

After completing the physical examination, several supporting tests can be carried out, including:

1. Blood Test

A blood sample will be taken to see the number of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. If the number of red blood cells and platelets is low, the condition most likely leads to leukemia.

2. Bone Marrow Test

The doctor will take tissue samples in the spinal cord using a long, thin needle. The purpose of this test is to find out what type of leukemia you have.

3. Imaging Test

In addition to the several examinations above, the doctor may also perform imaging tests to detect whether the leukemia has spread. Some of these types of tests include:

  • Computerized tomography (CT) scans.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan.

Types of Leukemia

In general, this condition can occur acutely or chronically. Acute leukemia occurs when cancer cells grow rapidly and symptoms can get worse in a short time.

Meanwhile, chronic leukemia occurs when cancer develops slowly and causes mild initial symptoms.

These conditions can be grouped under four main categories based on the type of white blood cells involved. These types of leukemia, including:

1. Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia

Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) is a condition when cancer spreads to the lymph nodes and central nervous system. This type of leukemia is more common in children. Even so, adults can also experience it.

2. Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is a condition when white blood cells in the bone marrow mutate or turn into cancer cells.

This type of leukemia is common in adults. Symptoms can appear subtle or even not occur at all. Therefore, sufferers will feel healthy and do not need certain treatment before their condition worsens.

Also Read: 12 Kinds of Foods to Increase White Blood Cells

3. Acute Myeloblastic Leukemia

Acute myeloblastic leukemia (AML) is a condition when bone marrow cells do not grow as they should. As a result, there is a buildup of immature cells.

This type of leukemia is more common in adults, especially those over 65 years of age. Even so, children can experience it.

4. Chronic Myeloblastic Leukemia

Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) occurs when cancer affects the blood-forming cells in the bone marrow.

This type of leukemia can affect adults of all ages, so it is very rare for children. Symptoms may not appear for several years.

In addition to the several types of leukemia that have been mentioned, there are also other types that are rare, such as myelodysplastic syndromes, myeloproliferative disordersAnd hairy cell leukemia.

Leukemia Treatment

The treatment given will depend on the type suffered and health conditions. However, in general, several treatments are carried out, including:

  • Chemotherapy: Medicines in the form of pills and injections will be prescribed by a doctor. The goal of therapy is to kill cancer cells and prevent them from multiplying.
  • Immune therapy: This therapy can help increase the body’s resistance to fight cancer.
  • Radiation therapy: X-rays will be used to kill the leukemia cells while preventing their growth.
  • Targeted therapy: Medicines will be prescribed specifically to treat certain parts of the leukemia cells so they are less likely to harm normal cells.
  • Bone marrow transplant: This procedure is performed by replacing damaged bone marrow with healthy bone marrow.

Also Read: Important Things to Do When You Are Diagnosed with Cancer

Leukemic complications

If you don’t get proper treatment, some complications can occur:

  • Severe infection: A decrease in white blood cells can reduce the body’s ability to fight infection. This causes a mild infection to turn into a serious infection.
  • Serious bleeding: Some bleeding can be life-threatening, such as intracranial hemorrhage, pulmonary hemorrhage, and gastrointestinal bleeding.

In addition, complications can also occur as a result of the treatment being undertaken. Various conditions that can occur, namely:

  • Hemolytic anemia.
  • Graft versus host disease.
  • Infertility.
  • Impaired kidney function.
  • Cancer reappears.

Leukemia Prevention

Until now there are no definite steps to prevent this condition. However, you can try to lower your risk of developing this disease. Several ways that can be done, including:

  • Avoid smoking or avoid exposure to cigarette smoke.
  • Maintain ideal body weight.
  • Limit exposure to chemicals. If you must be in an environment that is prone to exposure, use personal protective equipment.
  • Check your health regularly, especially if you have a history of cancer in your family.
  • Exercise regularly.
  1. Anonymous. 2021. Leukemia. (Accessed February 14, 2023).
  2. Anonymous 2022. Leukemia. (Accessed February 14, 2023).
  3. Anonymous. White Blood Cells. (Accessed February 14, 2023).
  4. Raymaakers, Karen. 2022. Leukemia: Signs, Symptoms, and Complications. (Accessed February 14, 2023).

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