Leukemia is a type of cancer that affects the blood. It forms when the cells in the bone marrow become cancerous. These cancerous cells slowly start taking over the healthy blood cells as well. This condition affects the ability of the body to fight infection, deliver oxygen, and control bleeding. The cancerous cells are known to affect the liver, spleen, and other organs as well.
There are two main types of leukemia, here are details on each type:
1. Chronic leukemia
Chronic leukemia is a slow-growing condition and takes years to affect the body. The early symptoms or signs often go unnoticed. This is commonly tested through a routine blood test. The signs of chronic leukemia include:
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Night sweats
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Pain in the spleen
2. Acute leukemia
Acute leukemia is fast-growing leukemia; it progresses quickly if left treated. A few of the common signs of acute leukemia include:
- Low count of white blood cells
- Shortness of breath
- Pale skin
- Night sweats
- Fever from time to time
- Aches in the joint and bone
- Red dots appearing under the skin
- Wounds take time to heal
The cause of leukemia is still unknown. Experts are still trying to understand why some people have chronic while others have acute leukemia. However, it is believed that environmental and genetic factors play a huge role. Leukemia can occur due to changes or mutations in the DNA.
3. Risk factors for the various types of leukemia
While there are certain risk factors that can increase the chances of leukemia, some cases of leukemia are seen without any of these factors. This disease is yet to be completely understood.
Factors that can increase the chances of chronic leukemia, include:
- Caucasians are more prone to this type of leukemia
- People older than 60 are at a higher risk
- Any exposure to a high level of radiation can lead to this condition
- Exposure to chemicals such as Agent Orange or benzene can lead to chronic leukemia.
Factors that increase the chances of acute leukemia, are:
- Radiation or chemotherapy for other types of cancer can lead to acute leukemia
- Smoking cigarettes is said to contribute to this disease
- Having long term exposure to radiation
- People with conditions like down syndrome may be prone to this condition
- Having a sibling with acute lymphocytic leukemia can cause this condition
The treatments for the types of leukemia varies from person to person. The treatment depends on the affected person’s age, health, spread of cancer, and responsiveness to treatment options. The survival rates for the different types of leukemia have greatly improved over the last 50 years and new treatments and drugs are being developed.