Leukemia - Types

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Types of Leukemia

The types of leukemia can be grouped based on how quickly the disease develops and gets worse. Leukemia is either chronic (which usually gets worse slowly) or acute (which usually gets worse quickly):

  • Chronic leukemia: Early in the disease, the leukemia cells can still do some of the work of normal white blood cells. People may not have any symptoms at first. Doctors often find chronic leukemia during a routine checkup - before there are any symptoms.

    Slowly, chronic leukemia gets worse. As the number of leukemia cells in the blood increases, people get symptoms, such as swollen lymph nodes or infections. When symptoms do appear, they are usually mild at first and get worse gradually.

  • Acute leukemia: The leukemia cells can't do any of the work of normal white blood cells. The number of leukemia cells increases rapidly. Acute leukemia usually worsens quickly.

The types of leukemia also can be grouped based on the type of white blood cell that is affected. Leukemia can start in lymphoid cells or myeloid cells. See the picture of these cells. Leukemia that affects lymphoid cells is called lymphoid, lymphocytic, or lymphoblastic leukemia. Leukemia that affects myeloid cells is called myeloid, myelogenous, or myeloblastic leukemia.

There are four common types of leukemia:

  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL): CLL affects lymphoid cells and usually grows slowly. It accounts for more than 15,000 new cases of leukemia each year. Most often, people diagnosed with the disease are over age 55. It almost never affects children.
  • Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML): CML affects myeloid cells and usually grows slowly at first. It accounts for nearly 6,000 new cases of leukemia each year. It mainly affects adults.
  • Acute lymphocytic (lymphoblastic) leukemia (ALL): ALL affects lymphoid cells and grows quickly. It accounts for more than 6,000 new cases of leukemia each year. ALL is the most common type of leukemia in young children. It also affects adults.
  • Acute myeloid leukemia (AML): AML affects myeloid cells and grows quickly. It accounts for more than 18,000 new cases of leukemia each year. It occurs in both adults and children.

Hairy cell leukemia is a rare type of chronic leukemia.

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See what others are saying

Comment from: 3-6 Male (Caregiver) Published: January 14

My son was 4 years going to preschool like any normal child. I think back and remember him having headaches and not eating as much. The last symptom was his leg. He previously hurt it playing with his little brother and father. He started limping on Monday and by Sunday, he couldn't even walk. I took him to the doctor Monday afternoon. I talked to my son's doctor and she said she would run blood tests and do an x-ray. After numerous tests and a bone marrow aspiration, we found out that he had B-Cell ALL (acute lymphoblastic leukemia). He was diagnosed on February 26th 2013 and went into remission 2 weeks later. He is 5 1/2 and has good and bad days. We have 2 1/2 years of treatment and will stay strong. So, the symptoms are headaches, loss of appetite, tiredness, infections, and not healing like you're supposed to. When you have a hurt ankle and it doesn't heal and gets worse then something is wrong.

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