By Nolan Jameson
What Is Leukemia?
Leukemia is a cancer specifically starting in the blood forming tissues of the body including the bone marrow and lymphatic system. Leukemia often affects the white blood cells, which are integral in the immune system for fighting disease. This malformed blood is because of the cancer in the bone marrow.
Symptoms of Leukemia
The symptoms of Leukemia can vary from patient to patient. Some common symptoms include fever, chills, fatigue, weakness, severe infections, weight loss, swollen lymph nodes, liver, and spleen, easy bleeding, frequent nosebleeds, small red spots in the skin, excessive sweating, and bone pain. Since these symptoms are so vague, see a doctor immediately if any are persistent or worrying.
Causes of Leukemia
Scientists simply do not understand the specific causes of leukemia. It is generally accepted that it is a combination of inheritance and environmental factors. It is usually believed that leukemia is caused by mutations in the bloods DNA. These abnormalities cause the cell to grow, divide, and live longer and more frequently than normal cells would. Exposure to certain chemicals such as benzene found in gasoline can be linked to leukemia. A family history of leukemia and smoking can both increase risk for this disease.
Know your history. If your family has a history with this disease be prepared to make changes to prevent your chances of leukemia. Lessen your exposure to known cancer causing chemicals. Do not smoke, and if you do, stop now. A healthy diet and exercise will keep the body healthy and lessens your risk for cancer.
Leukemia has a vast variety of options for treatment for those affected. Chemotherapy is the most common for of treatment. It uses chemicals to target and kill the cancerous cells. Chemo usually comes in pill or injection form. Biological therapy strengthens the immune system to fight the leukemia itself. Radiation therapy utilizes X-rays to damage leukemia cells and stop spreading. Finally, stem cell transplants are an attempt to remove the cancerous bone marrow and replace it with a healthy form.
There are three major forms of tests for leukemia. A physical exam searches for signs of leukemia in the body such as anemia, swollen lymph nodes, or an enlarged liver or spleen. A blood test looks for abnormal levels of white blood cells or platelets. This suggests the patient may have leukemia. A bone marrow test is the most reliable as doctors take a sample of bone marrow from the hip bone to search for cancerous cells.
Who is likely to get Leukemia?
Leukemia is one of the most common forms of cancer. Roughly 60,000 people are expected to be diagnosed with leukemia in the United States in 2016 alone. It is estimated that about 345,000 people are living with or in remission from leukemia in the U.S. In 2016, 24,400 people are estimated to die of leukemia.