Dec 23, 2013  
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Blood Cancer (Leukemia): Symptoms, Causes and Treatments


Leukemia is regarded as cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues, including the bone marrow and the lymphatic system.  There are different types of leukemia existing in the human body. Some forms of leukemia are more common in children. Other forms of leukemia occur mostly in adults.

Leukemia usually starts in the white blood cells. Your white blood cells are potent infection fighters — they normally grow and divide in an orderly way, as your body needs them. But in people with leukemia, the bone marrow produces abnormal white blood cells, which don’t function properly.

Treatment for leukemia can be complex — depending on the type of leukemia and other factors. But there are strategies and resources that can help to make your treatment successful.

The symptoms of leukemia vary, depending on the type of leukemia. Common leukemia signs and symptoms include:

1. Fever or chills

2. Persistent fatigue, weakness

3. Frequent infections

4. Losing weight without trying

5. Swollen lymph nodes, enlarged liver or spleen

6. Easy bleeding or bruising

7. Tiny red spots in your skin (petechiae)

8. Excessive sweating, especially at night

9. Bone pain or tenderness

When You Need to See a Doctor

Make an appointment with your doctor if you have any persistent signs or symptoms that worry you.

Leukemia symptoms are often vague and not specific. You may overlook early leukemia symptoms because they may resemble symptoms of the flu and other common illnesses.

Causes of Leukemia

According to scientists, it seems to develop from a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

How Leukemia Forms

In general, leukemia is thought to occur when some blood cells acquire mutations in their DNA — the instructions inside each cell that guide its action. The abnormalities cause the cell to grow and divide more rapidly which makes it to continue living when normal cells would die.

Treatment and Drugs

Treatment for leukemia depends on many factors. Your doctor determines your leukemia treatment options based on your age and overall health, the type of leukemia you have, and whether it has spread to other parts of your body. Common treatments used to fight leukemia include:

1. Chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is the major form of treatment for leukemia. This drug treatment uses chemicals to kill leukemia cells. Depending on the type of leukemia you have, you may receive a single drug or a combination of drugs. These drugs may come in a pill form, or they may be injected directly into a vein.

2. Biological therapy. Biological therapy works by helping your immune system recognize and attack leukemia cells.

3. Targeted therapy. Targeted therapy uses drugs that attack specific vulnerabilities within your cancer cells. For example, the drug, imatinib (Gleevec) stops the action of a protein within the leukemia cells of people with chronic myelogenous leukemia. This can help control the disease.

4. Radiation therapy. Radiation therapy uses X-rays or other high-energy beams to damage leukemia cells and stop their growth. During radiation therapy, you lie on a table while a large machine moves around you, directing the radiation to precise points on your body. You may receive radiation in one specific area of your body where there is a collection of leukemia cells, or you may receive radiation over your whole body

5. Stem cell transplant. A stem cell transplant is a procedure to replace your diseased bone marrow with healthy bone marrow. Before a stem cell transplant, you will receive high doses of chemotherapy or radiation therapy to destroy your diseased bone marrow. Then you receive an infusion of blood-forming stem cells that help to rebuild your bone marrow. You may receive stem cells from a donor, or in some cases you may be able to use your own stem cells.


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