General Illness Information:
Medical Term: Leukemia
Common Name: Blood cancer
Description: Leukemia is a cancer of the blood cells.
Scientists do not know the exact causes of this disease.
- Smoking is considered a risk factor for leukemia. On the other hand, there are people who never smoked, but fell ill with this disease, in addition, many heavy smokers do not have cancer of bone marrow cells;
- Long-term exposure to chemicals, for example, gasoline or formaldehyde, usually in the workplace, is considered a risk factor for leukemia. It should be noted that there are only a few proven cases of the disease due to the effects of these substances;
- Excessive exposure to radiation can lead to leukemia, although there are few proven cases of this malignant disease.
Additional risk factors include:
- Chemotherapy. This type of toxic treatment is used to treat certain types of cancer. It is believed that chemotherapy may cause leukemia. The combined effect of radiation and chemotherapy significantly increases the likelihood of developing leukemia;
- Human T-cell leukemia virus. Infection with this causative agent is associated with the development of malignant disease of bone marrow cells;
- Myelodysplastic syndrome: this rare blood disease causes an unchanged outcome – an acute myelocytic process;
- Down’s syndrome and other genetic diseases increase the risk of developing leukemia;
- Family predisposition: if close relatives (parents, brothers and sisters, children) suffer from chronic lymphocytic leukemia, this fact increases the likelihood of developing blood diseases by 4 times in comparison with ordinary people without risk factors.
Signs & Symptoms:
The first signs of acute and chronic leukemia include:
- Increase in the size of the lymph nodes. In most patients, similar changes are seen in the neck and in the armpits;
- A strong, unreasonable fatigue and weakness;
- Frequent infectious diseases. Normal leukocytes become smaller and therefore they do not perform their protective function. A person develops frequent bronchitis, relapsing pneumonia, herpes becomes aggravated;
- Sweating during sleep;
- Increased temperature without the influence of colds or infectious diseases;
- Discomfort and heaviness under the ribs;
- Bruises on the body, reddish spots under the skin (pinpoint hemorrhages), bleeding from the nose, bleeding gums.
Other symptoms of leukemia:
The accumulation of cancer cells in various systems and organs leads to the appearance of other signs of the disease, namely:
- Violation of consciousness, its periodic confusion, inhibition;
- Nausea and vomiting;
- Pathological change in coordination of movements;
- Periodically arising seizures, they can affect both individual parts of the body and the whole body;
- Ophthalmic problems – shroud before the eyes, blurred vision;
- Swelling affecting the groin, hip, shin area. In men, swelling can spread to the scrotum, which leads to painful sensations.
Acute leukemia is divided into several stages.
- The initial stage of leukemia is often diagnosed accidentally by blood tests. The doctor can pay attention to leukopenia, leukocytosis, signs of anemia, a decrease in the number of platelets. At the initial stage, all clinical signs are most pronounced.
- The unfolded stage is characterized both by the clinical picture and the main, inherent changes in blood;
- Remission. Can be complete and incomplete;
- Relapse of leukemia. Exacerbation can lead to both new bone marrow lesions and localization of cancer cells in other organs;
- The terminal stage – when the ineffectiveness of cytostatics is detected.
To confirm the diagnosis, the following methods are used:
- A general blood test;
- Biochemistry of blood;
- Bone marrow biopsy;
- Spinal-cerebral puncture;
- CT scan;
- X-ray studies of bones.
Once the tests are completed, the doctor prescribes a course of therapy.
Currently, leukemia identified at an early stage of development is well treatable. With timely and complete therapy, it is possible to achieve a stable remission, which often lasts for decades, especially for children.
The main treatment methods for all types of leukemia:
- Radiation therapy;
- Stem cell transplantation. Irradiation or chemotherapy is often used before transplantation.
People who suffer from blood cancer are highly prone to infections, so doctors can prescribe antibiotics. In addition, patients must not visit crowded places, as well as communicate with people who have recently had any infectious diseases. If a person with leukemia still gets infected, he is most likely to be put in a hospital, since even a common cold can have very serious complications.
In addition, there are often complications such as anemia and bleeding, as well as acute skin reaction to the effects of sunlight.
Scientists do not know how to prevent leukemia. Avoid risk factors such as smoking, the effects of toxic substances and radiation, in some cases it can help to avoid a serious ailment.
The prognosis for patients with leukemia depends on their age, the form of blood cancer, the prevalence of cancer, the body’s response to treatment. Most often, a poor prognosis is expected in men, children, adolescents over 10, and adults over 60. The chances of a long-term remission decrease with late diagnosis. Acute developing leukemia is characterized by a rapid course, and if there is no treatment, the patient’s death occurs quickly. The five-year survival rate of 70% of patients with leukemia is considered a good indicator of recovery. With the proper selection of methods of arresting chronic leukemia, long-term remission can be achieved.