What is it?

Leukemia is a broad term for cancers of the blood cells. Leukemia usually involves the white blood cells which are part of the immune system and are produced and mature in the bone marrow and the lymphatic system. In a state of leukemia, the rate of production of these cells goes out of control, resulting in a very large amount of abnormal white blood cells that do not function properly. The type of leukemia depends on the type of blood cell that becomes cancerous and whether it grows quickly or slowly. Leukemia derived from lymphocyte white cells is lymphocytic leukemia, in contrast to myeloid leukemia which originates from myeloid cells (myeloid white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets). Rapidly progressing leukemia is called acute leukemia, as opposed to chronic leukemia which develops significantly slower. The treatment of leukemia depends very much on its type according to this classification.
Leukemia occurs most often in adults older than 55, but it is also the most common cancer in children younger than 15.

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Signs & symptoms

Leukemia symptoms vary, depending on the type of leukemia. Possible symptoms and signs include fatigue, weakness, increased incidence of infections, weight loss, fever, night sweats, pallor, enlargement of lymph nodes and increased tendency to bleed.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis process of leukemia begins with a doctor's examination. When leukemia is suspected, further testing will be necessary:
- blood tests, including blood count and blood smear (a test in which the blood cells are being examined under a microscope).
- Bone marrow test, in which a sample of bone marrow is taken using a needle inserted into the hipbone. The sample will get tested for various characteristics of leukemia with the help of advanced molecular tests, the result of which can help determine the appropriate treatment.

Treatment

The treatment of leukemia depends on its type, severity, rate of progression and molecular characteristics. Treatment options include chemotherapy, biologic therapy, radiation or bone marrow transplantation. Some chronic forms of leukemia allow for follow-up only.

☝️ This is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult with your physician before making any medical decision.

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