Leukemia

Leukemia is named after the leukocytes, white blood cells which mutate before maturity and become cancerous. These cells reproduce rapidly, suppressing production of normal white cells that are essential to fighting infection in the body, and red cells that are needed to carry oxygen in the blood. Cancer cells may spread to the liver, spleen, lymph nodes, genitals, or the brain.

Classification—

  1. Chronic lymphocytic leukemia
  2. Acute lymphocytic leukemia 
  3. Acute myeloid leukemia
  4. Chronic myeloid leukemia

Acute Leukemias

Acute leukemia is rapidly progressive if not treated and involves more immature cells. It develops rapidly from the earliest forms of cells in the immature bone marrow cells (blasts). It requires urgent medical treatment but is generally responsive to chemotherapy.

Causes–

  • Chromosomal defects
  • Radiation exposure
  • Some chemotherapy drugs
  • Toxins (benzene)
  • Persons with Down syndrome having brother or sister with leukemia are at increased risk

 Symptoms And Signs–

  • Blurred vision
  • Bone and joint pain
  • Breathlessness
  • Dizziness
  • Easily bruised skin
  • Excessive sweating
  • Headaches
  • High fever of 38 c (100.4 F) or above
  • Pale skin
  • Recurrent infections
  • Seizures
  • Swollen liver
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Swollen spleen
  • Tiredness
  • Unusual and frequent bleeding( bleeding gums or nose bleeds)
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss

Investigations—

  • Blood test (Full blood count)
  • Biopsy(To know whether leukemia cells are in bone marrow)
  • Chromosomal studies(Cytogenetics)
  • Spinal tap
  • Chest x-ray(To see swollen lymph nodes or other signs of disease in chest)

Treatment–

  • Chemotherapy
  • Transfusion of blood products ( platelets or red blood cells)
  • Medicines
  • Radiation therapy
  • Bone marrow or stem cell transplant( for leukemia not responding to any treatment)

Complications—–

  • Bleeding
  • Disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC)
  • Relapse of ALL(Acute Lymphocyte Leukemia)
  • Severe infection

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