What is Leukemia?

Leukemia is the cancer of the blood cells. When one has leukemia, bone marrow starts to grow into white blood cells. Over time, the cells over-produce and grow rapidly. It can be classified as acute leukemia or chronic leukemia. With acute leukemia, the blood cells are immature and grow more rapidly; this type requires aggressive treatment. With chronic leukemia, the blood cells are more mature and grow more slowly; this type can go unnoticed for years.

Four Types

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia: CLL affects lymphoid cells and usually grows slowly. Most people that are diagnosed with this are over 55. Chronic myeloid leukemia affects myeloid cells and usually grows slowly at first and usually affects adults. Acute lymphocytic leukemia affects lymphoid cells and grows quickly, and is most common in young children but can also affect adults. Acute myeloid leukemia affects myeloid cells and grows quickly, and it occurs in both children and adults.

What are the Causes of Leukemia?

Leukemia occurs when blood cells acquire mutations in their DNA.  The mutations causes the cell to grow more rapidly and divide and continue to live when normal cells would die. The abnormal blood cells can then overcrowd the normal ones, causing very few healthy blood cells, which then shows symptoms of leukemia.

What are the Symptoms?

Some symptoms vary on the type of leukemia, but some of the common symptoms include fever or chills, fatigue, frequent infections, weight loss, swollen lymph nodes, bleeding or bruising easily, excessive sweating, and bone pain and tenderness. A doctor should be consulted if symptoms are persistent, as leukemia symptoms can often be mistaken for the flu or other illnesses.


The patient can go through a physical exam where the doctor will check for pale skin, swollen lymph nodes, liver and spleen. A blood test can be taken to determine abnormal levels of white blood cells or platelets. A bone marrow test can also be taken. This is when the doctor removes a sample of bone marrow from the hipbone.


There are an estimated 327,520 people living with, or in remission from, leukemia in the US. In 2014, 52,380 people are expected to be diagnosed with leukemia. In 2014, 24,090 people are expected to die from leukemia. Approximately 33 percent more males are living with leukemia than females. More males than females are diagnosed with leukemia and die of leukemia.


There is no known way to prevent leukemia. Some types of leukemia may be prevented by avoiding high doses of radiation, exposure to the chemical benzene,smoking, and other tobacco use, or certain types of chemotherapy used to treat other types of cancer.

Risk Factors

People who've had certain types of chemotherapy and radiation therapy for other cancers have an increased risk. People with genetic abnormalities or disorders have an increased risk. People with certain blood disorders have a higher risk. People exposed to certain levels of radiation have a higher risk. People exposed to certain chemicals, such as benzene have a higher risk. Smoking cigarettes and a family history of leukemia are also risk factors.

Current Treatments

There are a few different treatments for those suffering with leukemia. Chemotherapy is the most common, and it is a drug treatment that uses chemicals to kill the cancerous cells. Depending on the type of leukemia you have, you may receive a single drug or a combination of drugs. These drugs can be injected or taken as a pill. Another way is biological therapy, which helps the immune system recognize and attack cancerous cells. Another type of treatment is radiation therapy, which uses X-rays or other high-energy beams to damage leukemia cells and stop their growth. Another option is stem cell transplant, which replaces diseases bone marrow with healthy bone marrow.

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