Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Leukemia is cancer of the blood and bone marrow. Normal blood production produces red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. A person with leukemia is overproducing the white bllod cells. To make matters worse these white bllod cells don't stop growing when they should and become much larger than a normal healthy white blood cell. There are 7 different types of leukemia (the first four are the most common):
  1. acute myeloid leukemia (AML)
  2. acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL)
  3. chronic myeloid leukemia (CML)
  4. chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)
  5. hairy cell leukemia
  6. chronic myelomonocytic leukemia (CMML)
  7. juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia (JMML)
Interestingly, each type of leukemia is named after the type of white blood cell affected and in what phase of cell development that the disease occurs. Unlike other cancers, leukemia is divided into phases instead of stages. If the leukemia ia acute the disease is fast growing and will cause symptoms in a relatively short period of time. Chronic leukemia is slower growing and can take several years to show any symptoms.
  • Less than 5% cancerous white blood cells = Chronic Phase
  • More than 5% but less than 30% = Accelerated Phase
  • More than 30% = Acute Phase 
Leukemia can affect both children and adults. the main difference is the type of leukemia they will have. The most common form of leukemia in adults is chronic lymphocytic leukemia or CLL. Children most commonly will have acute lymphoblastic leukemia or ALL.

Common Symptoms of Leukemia include:

  • Fever and night sweats.

  • Headaches.

  • Bruising or bleeding easily.

  • Bone or joint pain.

  • A swollen or painful belly from an enlarged spleen.

  • Lymph nodes in the armpit, neck, or groin become swollen

  • Always sick

  • Constantly fatigued 

  • loss of appetite and loss of weight

  • Leukemia can be diagnosed through a physical exam, blood tests, or bone marrow biopsy. A doctor can also order a cytogenetics study, spinal tap, and/or a chest xray. A cytogenetics study is where they will look at the chromosomes of your blood, lymph nodes, or bone marrow to look for abnormal chromosomes. If abnormal chromosomes are detected they are able to identify the type of leukemia a person has. In the U.S. over 230,000 children and adults are affected by leukemia. There is approximately 44,600 people diagnosed each year and 21,780 will lose the fight against it.

    Common treatment of the disease includes:
    • Keeping a close eye on progression
    • Chemotherapy
    • Radiation
    • Biological Therapy (use of medicine to increase bodies natural defenses)
    • Stem Cell Transplant
    The type of leukemia a person (chronic or acute)has, the age of the patient, and  if leukemia cells are present in the cerebralspinal fluid will determine what treatment plan(s) they will pursue if any. If a patient has acute leukemia they will attack the cancer more aggresively. If it is chronic leukemia and the patient isn't showing many signs they may not do anything other than keep an eye on it.

    Today survival rates are just over 50% passed the five year mark. Chronic Lymphositic Leukemia (CLL) survival rate for more than five years is nearly 76%. More astonishingly is the survival rate for children diagnosed when they were under the age of five. Their survival rate is 90%!

    Negative factors for survival include:
    • aggresive formation of blast cells
    • enlarged spleen
    • over the age of 60
    • blood platelet count that is extremely high or low
    Any or all of these factors will decrease the likeliness of a patient being able to survive leukemia and go into remission.

    Once in remission some patients may have to under go maintenance treatments to help keep the cancer in remission.


    1 comment:

    1. Great info! My 5 year old cousin just got diagnosed with Leukemia and is going through chemotherapy right now. He's doing really well but still has a few years left of chemo depending on his responses to it. I was glad to see that children diagnosed under the age of five have such a high survival rate!