Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Helpful Facts To Understand What Is Leukemia

Helpful Facts To Understand What Is Leukemia

Being a cancer of the blood cells, leukemia has several types, classified depending on how quickly they progress and what cells they affect.We can mention the role of normal blood cells. White blood cells are fighting against the infections, red blood cells carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body and return carbon dioxide to the lungs as waste but also give the red color to the blood, and platelets form clots to control bleeding. The blood also contains a fluid called plasma.

The bone marrow, which is a spongy area located in the center of bones is responsible with the producing of these products. The bone marrow contains some cells called blasts, which are not yet mature, but when they become mature, they move into the circulating blood.In leukemia, one blood cell goes awry, and the body produces large amounts of this cell. These abnormal, non-functional cells will leave too little space for healthy cells. The symptoms of leukemia are being caused by this imbalance of healthy and unhealthy cells.

Leukemias can be acute or chronic. The white blood cells multiple very quickly and are very immature in acute leukemia, blood fills with blasts quickly and symptoms appear.In chronic leukemia, fewer symptoms appear, because the blasts form more slowly, and the body also produces functional cells. Chronic leukemia may cause the spleen to become enlarged so it can be felt by the doctor during a routine physical, and then further investigation will be performed.

Depending on which type of white blood cell is affected (lymphoid cells or myeloid cells), leukemias can be divided in types called lymphocytic leukemia and myelogenous leukemia.Acute lymphocytic leukemia is the most common type in children, but it is also seen in adults older than 65, and acute myeloid leukemia appears in both children and adults.Chronic lymphocytic leukemia occurs often in people over age 55, sometimes affects younger adults and almost never children, and in what concerns chronic myelogenous leukemia, it appears mostly in adults.

The exact causes of leukemia are not known but it was seen that exposure to high-energy radiation and working with the chemical benzene over a long period of time, can lead to it but also some genetic syndromes, such as Down's syndrome, put a person at higher risk.Although it was not proved, there are scientists that believe that persons exposed to electromagnetic fields are at a greater risk as well.In order to determine if a person has leukemia, the doctor will perform a blood count.

In this way, there will appear if there is an abnormally low or high number of white blood cells.Patients with leukemia may develop fevers or infections that won't go away; there can also appear anemia, which will cause the patient to feel tired or appear pale.In chronic leukemia symptoms may not appear for some time, and may be mild. Some common symptoms are fever, chills, weakness and fatigue, easy bleeding or bruising, swollen or bleeding gums, swollen or tender lymph nodes, liver or spleen.In acute leukemia there can also appear headaches, vomiting, confusion, or seizures.

For performing the diagnose, the doctor will ask about medical history and conduct a physical exam. If abnormalities such as enlarged spleen, liver or lymph nodes are detected, further investigation is needed. A complete blood count must be performed, and this test will confirm leukemia. In order to determine the type of leukemia, the physician will take a sample of the bone marrow and examine it under a microscope. The doctor may also want to perform a lumbar puncture to determine if leukemia cells have entered the spinal cord.

It is recommended that patients receive treatment at a medical center that is experienced in treating the disease. The target of the therapy is to induce a remission.Acute leukemia must be treated immediately, but chronic leukemia may not need to be treated right away (depending on the symptoms).After therapy has induced a remission, it is needed frequent monitoring of blood cell counts, to watch for relapse. Patients who have a remission that lasts five years are generally considered cured.

By: Groshan Fabiola

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