Leukemia Cancer

By Kaileigh Row and Katie Taylor

What is Leukemia?

Leukemia is a blood cancer that has 4 types: acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), acute myelogenous leukemia (AML), and chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML).


Picture - http://www.cancernet.nci.nih.gov/types/leukemia/patient/cll-treatment-pdq#section/_1

How Common Is This Cancer?

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As shown in the diagram, the prevalence of leukemia is higher in men than in women. Leukemia is most prevalent in white individuals and least prevalent in Asians and Pacific Islanders.


Sources also have facts regarding pediatric leukemia. In children, Hispanic and white individuals are at a higher risk for leukemia than African Americans and Asians. Pediatric leukemia cases are more common in girls than in boys.


Some Symptoms of Leukemia

What are Possible Causes of Leukemia?

Nobody knows exactly how leukemia is caused, but scientists have come up with some ideas. In patients with CLL, most had lymphocytes that malignantly spread out through the body and to the lymph nodes after being made in the bone marrow. In patients with CML, most had the Philadelphia Chromosome (shown at right) change and become damaged.


Picture - http://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-terms?cdrid=44179

Some more causes. . .

What happens at the cellular level?

There are 2 main types of cells in the blood, myeloid and lymphoid. Myeloid stem cells are the normal blood cells, such as red blood cells and platelets. Lymphoid blood cells are lymphocytes, white blood cells that help fight infection. Instead of becoming good blood cells, lots of cells become unhealthy lymphocytes in CLL. In ALL, there are excess lymphocytes being made, also known as "leukemia cells”. Leukemia cells are bad at fighting infection. These excess Leukemia cells take up space that blood cells need.



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How is leukemia diagnosed?

If a doctor suspects that a patient may have leukemia, the following things can be done to confirm it:

1. Physical Examination - Used to discover symptoms of leukemia

2. Blood Cell Count - Having a high percentage of white blood cells is an indicator for leukemia.

3. DNA Testing of Bone Marrow - A sample of the patient's bone marrow is taken and its chromosomes are studied to help identify types of cells linked with leukemia, and the type of leukemia.

4. Lumbar Puncture - Spinal fluid is collected and then examined under a microscope to spot leukemic cells.


In the following clinical vignette Dr. Peter Row explains two cases of such a diagnosis.


Leukemia Clip by Kaileigh

Treatments or Cures

There are 2 main ways of treatment, clinical trials and standard treatment. There are 5 different ways of standard treatment.
  • Observation
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Surgery
  • Target therapy

There are always new treatments coming out. Here are 3 clinical trials that are used.

  • Chemotherapy with stem cell transplant
  • Biologic therapy
  • Chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy

Source/More Information - http://www.cancernet.nci.nih.gov/types/leukemia/patient/cll-treatment-pdq#section/_48

Picture- https://sites.psu.edu/siowfa15/2015/12/03/is-chemotherapy-the-best-way-to-combat-cancer/

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How does leukemia impact the people it affects?

Leukemia can affect an individual in any or all of these ways.

  • Low amounts of blood cells. AML can hinder the body's ability to produce blood cells. Chemotherapy magnifies this effect by eliminating both cancerous and normal cells.
  • High risk for infection. With fewer white blood cells, the immune system is weakened, making your risk for infection much higher. Chemotherapy can damage the mouth and intestines, leaving open wounds for infectious bacteria to breed.
  • In order to mitigate these effects, a transfusion of blood cells is done. This has the potential to cause graft versus host disease (GVHD) whereby the donor's blood cells attack the patient's blood cells.


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Cells that can elicit graft versus host disease in various parts of the body


Intriguing Facts

  • There is a 58.5% chance of surviving 5 years with leukemia.


  • “In 2015, 54,270 people are expected to be diagnosed with leukemia.”
  • "Approximately every 9 minutes, someone in the US dies from a blood cancer. This statistic represents nearly 155 people each day or more than six people every hour.”
  • In the United States, one person is diagnosed with a blood cancer every three minutes.