An estimated 474,519 cases of leukemia globally were documented in 2020 . Leukemia is a type of cancer that affects certain kinds of blood cells in their early form. Depending on the type of leukemia, the cancer may attack different kinds of blood cells with various effects, treatment options, and age groups affected.
Leukemia does not just affect blood cells. It also destroys blood-forming tissues like the bone marrow and lymphatic system. If untreated, leukemia can spread to the central nervous system and organs like the liver, spleen, lungs, and heart.
Some types of leukemia are acute, meaning that the cancer is growing at a fast rate. Others are chronic, meaning that the cancer is growing at a slower pace.
Leukemia treatments vary based on the:
Most often, leukemia presents in the white blood cells, which primarily fight infection. When leukemia causes abnormalities in white blood cells, it can impact the immune system, resulting in a significantly increased risk of infection.
There is no known cause of leukemia, but researchers in the medical community have identified some common risk factors.
The development of leukemia is often attributed to various risk factors, including:
Additional risk factors are associated with environmental and lifestyle-related exposure, such as :
While different variations of leukemia present various symptoms, there are some similarities across most of the common leukemia types.
If any of the above symptoms are present, you should see a doctor right away.
Your doctor will likely first give you a physical examination. Next, your doctor may recommend testing for unrelated issues to rule out other causes. If several symptoms are present, especially over a prolonged time, your doctor may then order blood work to test for leukemia.
Blood tests and bone marrow tests are the only way to confirm whether leukemia is present in the body. If blood samples show abnormal results — for example, a high white blood cell count — this may indicate leukemia.
A bone marrow test involves removing a small sample of bone marrow, typically from the hip. A laboratory technician will test the blood and bone marrow samples for the presence of leukemia cells, which would help the doctor confirm their diagnosis.
Of these, there are both acute (faster-growing) leukemias and chronic (slower-growing) leukemias.
Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) is among the most common types of leukemia found in adults. It’s usually not found in patients under age 45, although some AML cases are diagnosed in children.[4:1]
Usually, Acute Myeloid Leukemia develops when cells that should turn into white blood cells grow abnormally into cancerous cells. AML doesn’t affect cells known as lymphocytes but affects myeloid cells responsible for protective immunity and tissue repair.
While AML begins in the bone marrow, it can quickly spread into the blood, lymph nodes, liver, spleen, testicles, brain, or spinal cord. AML is a serious type of leukemia cancer but can be treatable.
Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) occurs in cats and is quite common, affecting between 2 and 3% of all cats in the United States .
Feline leukemia can cause many of the same symptoms in cats as are found in human leukemia patients, including:
The disease is contagious among cats and often passed through saliva, blood, urine, and feces but cannot be transmitted to humans or other animals.
There is no isolated way to prevent leukemia. Many of the risk factors are genetic, but since there is some risk associated with tobacco, chemicals, and radiation, there are a few lifestyle choices you can make to decrease your chances of developing this type of cancer.
Here are some things you can do to prevent leukemia:
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