Abnormal growth of blood cells results in blood cancers. If the abnormal growth of blood cells is not addressed timely, it could result in severe conditions. Some types of blood cancers can even result in death. Among different types of cancers, leukemia cancer is one caused by abnormal growth of WBCs. The human body cannot fight infection effectively after leukemia. Even though leukemia is a rare condition, it affects around a million Indians every year. Therefore, one should be aware of the causes of leukemia. Read on to know the leukemia meaning and how it spreads in the human body.
Understanding the Meaning of Leukemia
The blood in the human body consists of erythrocytes (RBCs) and leucocytes (WBCs). Besides red and white blood cells, human blood also consists of thrombocytes (platelets). Leukemia cancer is related to cancer in erythrocytes. WBCs do not perform according to their standards when the body suffers from leukaemia. WBCs are essential for fighting infection, and leukemia hampers the ability of WBCs to do so. WBCs in our body fight foreign bacteria, viruses, fungi, and many other substances. Without leucocytes, our immune system will always be at risk.
Usually, leucocytes are formed inside the bone marrow but are also produced in lymph nodes, the thymus gland, and the spleen. When suffering from leukemia cancer, the genetic information of a single cell inside the bone marrow changes. As a result, more than the required number of WBCs are produced inside the bone marrow. Abnormal WBCs eventually crowd out normal WBCs, RBCs, and thrombocytes. Normal WBCs travel through the bloodstream and fight foreign pathogens. Due to leukemia cancer, WBCs cannot behave normally and stop travelling continuously through the bloodstream and lymphatic vessels. Let us now comprehend the different symptoms and causes of leukemia.
What Causes Leukemia Cancer?
We all know that DNA is a genetic code inside the cell that tells it how to function. When someone has leukemia cancer, the genetic code of a single cell inside the bone marrow changes. Our DNA is responsible for guiding the cells when to grow and when to die. Due to the mutation in a single cell, the cell does not stop growing. Also, the cell multiplies and continues to grow due to a coding error. All cells formed from the original mutated white blood cell will also contain the coding error. Scientists and researchers still don’t know what causes a single white blood cell mutation. However, scientists have identified different types of mutations in leukemia patients.
Common Symptoms of Leukemia Cancer
There are several bodily symptoms of leukemia cancer. On experiencing any Leukemia symptoms, an individual should contact a doctor immediately. Delaying treatment for leukemia cancer can result in some life-threatening consequences. If leukemia is diagnosed in the early stages, there are chances of beating cancer. Some common symptoms of leukemia cancer are as follows:
· Excessive sweating at night (night sweats)
· Excessive fatigue/weakness
· Sudden weight loss
· Increased tenderness in bones
· Pain in bones
· Swelling in lymph nodes of the neck and armpits
· Enlarged spleen
· Enlarged liver
· Petechiae (red spots on the skin surface)
· Easy bruising
· Easy bleeding
· Sudden chills in the body
· Infections in the body
Since leukemia is a type of blood cancer, it will spread to other body parts. Symptoms can also occur in bodily areas affected by leukemia cancer cells. For instance, if leukemia cancer reaches the central nervous system, it can cause symptoms like:
· Severe headaches
· State of confusion
· Decreased muscle control
The type of leukemia will decide how fast cancer cells spread to different body parts. If timely treatment for leukemia is provided, the cancer cells might not spread to other body parts. Leukemia cancer cells can often spread to testicles, lungs, heart, kidneys, and gastrointestinal tract.
Understanding the Types of Leukemia
Leukemia can be distinguished based on the type of WBCs that are affected. It can also be differentiated based on the onset; sudden, and slow onset. Major types of leukemia cancer observed around the world are as follows:
Acute Myeloid Leukemia
AML (Acute Myeloid Leukemia) can be found in both adults and children. Starting from the bone marrow, AML quickly spreads into the bloodstream. AML often develops from blood cells that transform into WBCs, except lymphocytes.
Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia
ALL (Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia) is usually discovered among children. The production of blood cells is affected due to ALL. Also, the blood cells are produced at an abnormal rate in ALL. This type of leukemia originates from lymphocytes, a type of WBCs.
Chronic Myeloid Leukemia
CML (Chronic Myeloid Leukemia) is usually observed in adults worldwide. Bone marrow-derived cells, known as myeloid cells grow in large numbers due to CML. Unregulated myeloid cells accumulate in the bloodstream and crowd out remaining blood cells.
Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia
CLL (Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia) usually affects adults aged 55 or above. It is a type of slow onset that occurs due to the abnormality of lymphocytes in the bone marrow.
What’s the Treatment for Leukemia Cancer?
Treatment for leukemia will depend on the type and stage of cancer. Not all doctors can treat leukemia cancer. Haematologist-oncologists usually treat leukemia, because they specialise in treating blood disorders and cancers. Some common types of treatment for leukemia cancer are as follows:
· With the help of chemotherapy, a single drug or a combination of drugs is offered to the patient. These drugs have to power to kill leukemia cancer cells in the body.
· High-power radiations are also used to kill leukemia cells and stop their growth. Radiation therapy can be applied to a specific area affected by leukemia cells or the entire body.
· Sometimes, the diseased bone marrow is replaced with healthy bone marrow. The bone marrow of the patient or a donor is required for stem cell transplantation.
· Immune therapy can be offered to individuals suffering from leukemia cancer. With immune therapy, blood cells recognise their worth and start attacking cancer cells.
It is better to get leukemia therapy in the early stages to boost the chances of survival. Know more about leukemia blood test, causes, symptoms, and treatments!