What is leukemia?
- Any cancer is caused by an uncontrolled or unregulated growth of abnormal cells. Leukemia involves the uncontrolled growth of the bone marrow cells
- Leukemia cells, unlike other types of cancers, generally do not clump to form a mass (tumor). Due to the absence of tumor (mass) formation, leukemia is not diagnosed through imaging tests such as X-rays.
- Leukemia is most often a cancer of the white blood cells or WBCs. Some leukemia, however, may start in other types of blood cells.
- Leukemia is of many types. Some types of leukemia mostly affect adults while some are more common in children.
- Some leukemias are fast-growing (acute) while others are slow-growing or chronic leukemia.
- Leukemia may also be divided based upon their cells of origin as myeloid or lymphoid leukemia.
Treatment of leukemia varies according to the type of leukemia besides other factors such as the person’s age, stage of leukemia and presence of complications.
What causes leukemia?
Leukemia results when the genetic material (DNA) of a single cell in the bone marrow transforms, this is called a mutation. A mutated cell does not perform body function, but it eats away the nutrition meant for the normal cells. Every single mutated cell acts as the mother cells producing more abnormal cells.
The exact cause of the mutation is not well understood. Certain factors may put a person at risk of leukemia. These include:
- Previous cancer treatment: Previous treatment for cancer with radiation or chemotherapy may increase the risk of leukemia.
- Environmental chemicals: Exposure to certain chemicals such as benzene (used in several industries to make rubber, plastics, dyes, etc.) and formaldehyde (found in building materials and several household products like soaps and shampoos) can put a person at risk of leukemia.
- Cigarette smoking: Present or previous history of smoking increases the risk of several cancers including leukemia.
- Genetic disorders: Certain genetic disorders such as Down syndrome, neurofibromatosis, and Klinefelter syndrome may increase the risk of having leukemia
- Family history of leukemia: In most cases, there is no family history of leukemia, however, if a family member has been diagnosed with leukemia or a genetic disorder, it may increase your risk of leukemia.
What are the early signs and symptoms of leukemia?
The early signs and symptoms of leukemia are usually very subtle and non-specific.
Early symptoms are:
- Fever which keeps coming frequently
- Feeling tired and weak
- Looking pale
Other symptoms are:
- The tendency for bruising and bleeding: The person may complain of frequent nose and gum bleeds. There may be tiny reddish spots on the skin, called petechiae. Purplish patches or bruises may be seen on the skin.
- Pain and tenderness in bones or joints
- Swollen lymph nodes which may be felt in the neck, underarm, groin, or stomach
- An enlarged spleen or liver may be felt as heaviness or pain in the belly.
- Frequent infections.
- Unintended or unplanned weight loss.
- Night sweats.
- Pain or fullness felt under the ribs on the left side.
What are the complications of leukemia?
The complications of leukemia include:
- Frequent infections
- Tumor lysis syndrome (a condition caused by the rapid death of cancer cells during aggressive treatment)
- Organ damage such as liver and kidney failure
- Risk of other cancers
- Children receiving leukemia therapy may experience problems such as central nervous system (CNS) impairment, slowing of growth, infertility, cataract apart from an increased risk for other cancers.
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Arzerra (ofatumumab)Arzerra (ofatumumab) Injection is a monoclonal antibody used to treat chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Common side effects of Arzerra include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, tiredness, swelling of hands/ankles/feet, trouble sleeping, skin rash, or cold symptoms such as stuffy nose, sneezing, and sore throat. Arzerra decreases bone marrow function, which can cause anemia.
Belrapzo (bendamustine hydrochloride) InjectionBelrapzo (bendamustine hydrochloride) injection is an alkylating drug indicated for treatment of patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), and indolent B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) that has progressed during or within six months of treatment with rituximab or a rituximab-containing regimen. Side effects of Belrapzo include nausea, fatigue, low iron (anemia), low platelet count (thrombocytopenia), low white blood cells (neutropenia, lymphopenia, leukopenia), too much bilirubin in the blood (hyperbilirubinemia), fever, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, weight loss, cough, headache, shortness of breath, rash, and inflammation of the mouth and lips
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Blood Cancer TypesTypes of blood cancers include leukemia, lymphomas, multiple myelomas, and others discussed in this slideshow. Symptoms may include fever, night sweats, fatigue, and other symptoms. Blood cancer treatment depends on the type of cancer and other factors. Blood tests for cancer as well as imaging tests and needle biopsy may help diagnose the condition.
Guide to LeukemiaLearn about the common types and stages of leukemia, who gets it, symptoms, tests, treatments, and more. People with blood cancer are living longer than ever, and it may be curable.
Common Medical Abbreviations & Terms
Doctors, pharmacists, and other health-care professionals use abbreviations, acronyms, and other terminology for instructions and information in regard to a patient's health condition, prescription drugs they are to take, or medical procedures that have been ordered. There is no approved this list of common medical abbreviations, acronyms, and terminology used by doctors and other health- care professionals. You can use this list of medical abbreviations and acronyms written by our doctors the next time you can't understand what is on your prescription package, blood test results, or medical procedure orders. Examples include:
- ANED: Alive no evidence of disease. The patient arrived in the ER alive with no evidence of disease.
- ARF: Acute renal (kidney) failure
- cap: Capsule.
- CPAP: Continuous positive airway pressure. A treatment for sleep apnea.
- DJD: Degenerative joint disease. Another term for osteoarthritis.
- DM: Diabetes mellitus. Type 1 and type 2 diabetes
- HA: Headache
- IBD: Inflammatory bowel disease. A name for two disorders of the gastrointestinal (BI) tract, Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis
- JT: Joint
- N/V: Nausea or vomiting.
- p.o.: By mouth. From the Latin terminology per os.
- q.i.d.: Four times daily. As in taking a medicine four times daily.
- RA: Rheumatoid arthritis
- SOB: Shortness of breath.
- T: Temperature. Temperature is recorded as part of the physical examination. It is one of the "vital signs."
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Leukemia QuizWhat do you know about leukemia? Did you know there are different types? What are the symptoms? Take the Leukemia Quiz and test your knowledge and get the facts.
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Venclexta (venetoclax)Venclexta is a prescription medicine used to treat adults with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) or small lymphocytic lymphoma (SLL) in combination with azacitidine, or decitabine, or low-dose cytarabine to treat adults with newly-diagnosed acute myeloid leukemia (AML) who are 75 years of age or older, or have other medical conditions that prevent the use of standard chemotherapy.