Causes, Symptoms And Treatment Of Leukemia

What is leukemia?

Leukemia is a collective term for various types of blood cancers or more precisely, cancer of white blood cells (leukocytes). Leukemia is the growth of white blood cells altered in a malicious way. This allows the blood cells do not develop into mature white blood cells. By changing the growth of white blood cells can not perform their duties. The job of white blood cells protect the body against pathogens. Also, the bone marrow makes too many white blood cells. There are many types of leukemia, which all have in common that one of the many types of white blood cells is degenerated and has started to multiply rampant.


We can distinguish two characteristic forms of leukemias:
  • Acute leukemias, wherein the malignant cells are immature;
  • Chronic leukemias, which show just an accumulation of mature cells.
Depending on the cell type acute and chronic leukemias can be divided again into a:
  • Lymphatic form; In lymphocytic leukemia rise to the leukemia cells in the development of lymphoid progenitor cell to cell
  • Myeloid form; in myeloid leukemia cells arise in the myelo├»delijn.
On the basis of this classification are the four main types of leukemia:
  • Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) in children and adolescents Many;
  • Acute myeloid leukemia (AML), especially between 20-40 years and over 60 years;
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), especially in elderly people;
  • Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), especially between 50 and 60 years.

What causes leukemia?

The cause of leukemia is not known exactly. There is however a number of factors well known that increases the likelihood of leukemia. These include:
  • Hereditary predisposition. If leukemia in the family is common, it is more likely that they themselves also get leukemia.
  • Exposure to ionizing radiation.
  • Exposure to certain chemicals, such as benzene and pesticides.
  • Treatment with certain anticancer drugs.
  • Also, smoke can increase the likelihood of leukemia.
  • Some forms of leukemia appear to be associated with certain viruses.
These factors may increase the risk of leukemia, but the exact cause is unknown.

 Leukemia is a collective term for various types of blood cancers or more precisely Causes, Symptoms And Treatment Of Leukemia

Leukemia symptoms

The symptoms of leukemia vary. In acute leukemia, the symptoms are very suddenly and quickly get worse when there is no treatment. In chronic leukemia symptoms may be long in coming and progressively worse.

In acute leukemia
Complaints to acute leukemia, due to the large quantity of immature white blood cells in the bone marrow. As a result, there is less space for the formation of red blood cells and platelets, and can cause a shortage of healthy white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets.

Symptoms that may occur with acute leukemia are:
  • Are pale (because of lack of red blood cells);
  • Tired and out of breath (this is also due to lack of red blood cells);
  • Dizziness (including vertigo is caused by deficiency of red blood cells);
  • Palpitations;
  • Spontaneous bleeding (This is due to low platelet count);
  • Quickly get blue spots (also bruises caused by low platelet count);
  • Infections that recur or do not heal properly (Come by shortage of healthy, mature white blood cells);
  • Fever;
  • Periods of heavy sweating during the night;
  • Headache;
  • Decreased appetite and thus weight loss.

In chronic leukemia
Leukemia is difficult to recognize because the symptoms come in handy if the leukemia often for a few years in the body. The symptoms of acute leukemia are also found in chronic leukemia. Other complaints that do not occur in acute leukemia, but his chronic leukemia:
  • Feeling of fullness in the abdomen (a swelling of the spleen and / or liver).
  • Pressure on the stomach (due to a swelling of the spleen and / or liver).
  • Swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck, armpits and / or groin.

Leukemia treatment

Leukemia can not be cured by surgery, because the disease is spread through the whole body, so that the surgical removal of the diseased tissue is not possible. However, it can be treated in a different way. In a relatively high percentage of the cases, to achieve healing and in a large number of other cases, to slow the progression of the disease for years, and sometimes decades. Chronic Myeloid Leukemia patients since 2002 preferably treated with the drug imatinib. The treatment in leukemia can vary. Various treatments for leukemia are:
  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy leukemia cells are destroyed by drugs. Chemotherapy may occur many side effects;
  • Signal transduction inhibitors: signal transduction inhibitors are used in chronic myeloid leukemia. It inhibits the signal leukemia cells were encouraged to multiply. Eventually the leukemia cells will die;
  • Irradiation: another word for irradiation radiotherapy. In this method, it is ensured that leukemia cells do not stop dividing and eventually die. The radiation is focused on the immature white blood cells;
  • Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy in the human immune system is strengthened to fight the leukemia cells. This is achieved by the administration of agents that enhance the immune system. Immunotherapy is used in combination with another treatment used to reduce the symptoms and slow the progress of the disease;
  • Bone marrow transplantation: be healthy stem cells extracted from the bone marrow in bone marrow transplantation. In the transplant be unhealthy bone marrow cells replaced by healthy bone marrow cells. These healthy bone marrow cells can be harvested from the patient himself or from a donor;
  • Stem cell transplantation: stem cell is very similar to bone marrow transplantation. The difference is that to be fetched from stem cell transplantation healthy stem cells from the blood in the umbilical cord of a newborn or out of the bloodstream of an adult. And that is a stem cell less invasive than bone marrow transplantation.
In young children is particularly acute lymphoblastic leukemia for which cure in approximately 80% of the cases. This has especially to do with the fact that the leukemia is relatively sensitive to anti-cancer drugs (chemotherapy). The treatment of children with leukemia is coordinated by the Netherlands Foundation for Children's Oncology Netherlands (SKION), the association of Dutch pediatric oncologists (The Hague).

Transferability and heredity

As is common leukemia in the family, the risk of leukemia is higher. Also applies to some congenital abnormalities that they increase the likelihood of leukemia. But there has not been established that leukemia is hereditary.

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