By Gabby Paquette

What is Leukemia and How Does it Affect the Body?

Leukemia is a type of cancer that affects the Immune System. The Immune System fends off diseases and helps to protect your body from infection. In a normal working body, white blood cells grow in your bone marrow and work to defend and help to get your body back to good health. They are able to split and reproduce to create more blood cells that fight of the infections. People with Leukemia have a large amount of useless white blood cells. These blood cells are faulty and cannot protect the body from diseases. Because so many faulty white blood cells are born, they take over the properly working cells, and kill them off. The faulty white blood cells multiply in other organs of your body and disturb the red blood cells and platelets that take oxygen to various organs and help your blood to clot.
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Who is Affected?

There are different types of Leukemia that can affect different people. All Leukemia's can occur in male and females. 16.7 out of 100,000 males have Leukemia. 10.2 out of 100,000 females have Leukemia. Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia(ALL) is the type of Leukemia that mostly occurs in young children, but has been known to occur in adults. Acute Myelogenous Leukemia(AML) can be found in adults and children. Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia(CLL) is found in mainly adults. Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia(CML) is another type of Leukemia that is found in mostly adults. Ethnicity does not determine if someone can get Leukemia.

How Does this Condition Arise?

This condition can arise in many ways. People who have had had cancer treatments in the past may develop types of Leukemia. People with genetic disorders or anomalies are at a higher risk of developing Leukemia. People who smoke can develop Leukemia. People with family members that have had Leukemia may discover that they have Leukemia. People that work with or are around chemicals like the ones found in gasoline are at a higher risk of getting Leukemia. People that have other blood disorders, or have not been protected from radiation are at a higher risk of developing Leukemia.

How is this Condition Diagnosed?

A doctor can determine if someone has Leukemia in many ways. A doctor will first question about the symptoms, check to see if the symptoms are still affecting the person, and do a complete physical exam. A doctor then can request for a CBC(complete blood count) to test and see how many white, and red blood cells people have along with how many platelets, to determine if there are any abnormal or faulty cells. A doctor can also test your bone marrow by inserting a tube-like needle into your bone. The bone marrow sample will then be examined to look for the abnormal Leukemia cells. Another choice of test is getting X-rays, MRIs, ultrasounds, or CT scans to help decide if the Leukemia is moving to other parts of the body. Doctors also classify Leukemia by the stage and how fast the Leukemia is moving.

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Signs and Symptoms

  • joint pain also in bones

  • always feeling exhausted

  • lack in hunger

  • swollen glands

  • random fevers

  • intestinal discomfort

  • night sweats

  • constant bleeding of the nose

  • small red dots on skin

  • infections


There are many ways to treat each type of Leukemia. Patients have a choice of getting multiple treatments including Stem Cell Transplants, Radiation Therapy, Targeted Therapy, Biological Therapy, and Chemotherapy. When given a Stem Cell Transplant, patients receive high amounts of Chemo or Radiation Therapy before their infected bone marrow is replaced with healthy bone marrow. People who are given Radiation Therapy are placed in a room where doctors use X-rays to spot point on your body where they can destroy the Leukemia Cells and stop them from continuing to prosper. With Targeted Therapy, patients are given medication that focuses in on certain weak spots in the cells that tries to manage the sickness. Biological Therapy works to show your Immune System how to react to the Leukemia cells so that it can kill them off. Chemotherapy is one of the most commonly used treatments. It uses a drug that can be taken as a pill or inserted with an IV. This treatment targets the Leukemia cells to kill them off.


Out of all cancers, Leukemia is ranked as number six in the United States for causing the most deaths. It is predicted that 57.2% of people with Leukemia will survive 5 years or more. Tests have show that there were approximately 52,380 diagnoses of Leukemia is 2014. Studies have shown that in 2014 around 24,090 people died from Leukemia. About 1.4% of all males and females at some point in their life will be told they have Leukemia. There are around 302,800 people in the U.S. currently fighting this condition.

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I selected this condition because many people in my family have died because of cancer. I knew about the cancers that caused their deaths, but I was curious to know about Leukemia. I knew that many children have been affected by Leukemia and I was eager to know if this cancer showed up a lot in the younger generations.

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"Leukemia-Topic Overview." WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 17 Jan. 2015. <http://www.webmd.com/cancer/tc/leukemia-topic-overview>.

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"Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results ProgramTurning Cancer Data Into Discovery." Leukemia. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Jan. 2015. <http://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/leuks.html>.