Commonly Asked Questions About Leukemia
Leukemia is a type of cancer that starts in the bone marrow. Bone marrow is where the body creates new blood cells. Leukemia leads to bone marrow creating too many blood cells, many of which are abnormal white blood cells.
The two types of white blood cells that lead to leukemia are myeloid and lymphoid cells. A person has myelogenous (or myeloid) leukemia when caused by the former and lymphocytic leukemia when caused by lymphoid cells. Leukemia cells get to circulate all over the body, leading to various health issues that a hematologist can help to locate.
Frequently asked questions about leukemia
Let us take a look at some of the answers to questions you might have about leukemia:
1. What is the difference between normal blood cells and leukemia cells?
Blood is made up of several components. The liquid part of blood is called the plasma, and it contains three different types of blood cells: red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Each type of blood cell plays a specific role.
White blood cells help to fight off infections. The body makes more of them when a person has an infection. Red blood cells transport oxygen from the lungs to tissues all over the body. They also extract carbon dioxide from these tissues and take it back to the lungs, where it is removed. Anemia occurs when an individual does not have enough red blood cells to keep their tissues supplied with oxygen. Anemic people often experience symptoms like irritability, headaches, dizziness, and fatigue. Platelets help to control bleeding by helping to form blood clots.
Healthy blood cells shrink in size as they grow in the bone marrow. This allows them to play their roles more efficiently. Some of these cells are sent all over the body to grow, while others remain in the marrow. The rate at which these cells are created varies based on the body's needs. Leukemia leads to abnormal white blood cells being created in the bone marrow, limiting the body's ability to fight off infections.
2. Can leukemia be prevented?
There is no guaranteed way to prevent leukemia, but lifestyle changes can be made to reduce a person's risk factors. For example, smoking is a risk factor for myeloid leukemia. Quitting could reduce a person's risk of developing leukemia and many other types of cancer.
3. What is the distinction between chronic and acute leukemia?
There are two categories used to classify leukemia: acute or chronic. These terms indicate how fast a person's abnormal cells progress towards more advanced phases of the disease and how close these cells are to normal cells.
People with acute leukemia typically have immature blood cells that cannot serve their roles. The number of these abnormal cells being produced increases quickly and typically worsens until treated.
Those with chronic leukemia often have a combination of mature functional and young blood cells called blasts. These blasts grow gradually, so it takes longer for the patient's condition to worsen. People with chronic leukemia are sometimes stable for years without medical treatment.
4. What are the treatment options for leukemia?
Some of the treatments a hematologist might recommend for patients with leukemia include:
- Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is the standard treatment for most types of leukemia. It involves using medication to kill abnormal cells. Patients are typically prescribed multiple medications to take orally. In some cases, the medication might be administered intravenously. Chemotherapy provides a systematic solution for leukemia since it kills cancer cells all over the body.
- Radiation therapy: This involves killing cancer cells with x-rays. It can be combined with other treatments like stem cell transplants or chemotherapy. Treatment might include treating the patient's entire body with radiation or only targeting a specific area where cancer cells have accumulated. Radiation therapy can also be used to prevent leukemia from spreading to the brain, and it can also be used as a treatment for leukemia in the brain.
- Targeted therapy: This is one of the newer approaches to treating leukemia. It involves using medication to target the specific characteristics that differentiate cancer cells from normal ones. As a result, the treatment typically leads to fewer side effects since it primarily affects leukemia cells.
- Stem cell transplant: Stem cell transplant involves loading the body with extremely high doses of radiation and chemotherapy. Such high doses would typically be too much for the body, as it would also kill stem cells in the bone marrow. The patient's blood is infused with new, healthy stem cells during stem cell transplants. These new stem cells might be extracted from the bone marrow or blood of a healthy patient.
Our oncologist is here to help
Our oncologist has years of experience treating patients with leukemia. Give us a call or visit our Marlton clinic to set up an appointment.
Request an appointment here: https://lindenbergcancer.com or call Lindenberg Cancer & Hematology Center at (856) 475-0876 for an appointment in our Marlton office.
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