Monday, September 24, 2012

Leukemia In Depth

Leukemia is a cancer of the blood cells.  It starts in the bone marrow (the soft tissue inside bones). Bone marrow is where the blood cells are made.  When you are healthy, your bone marrow makes: 

  • White Blood Cells (WBC): these help your body fight infection.
  • Red Blood Cells: these carry oxygen (O2) to all parts of your body.
  • Platelets: these help your blood clot.
When you have Leukemia, your body starts to make a lot of abnormal white blood cells, called leukemia cells.  These aren't like regular white blood cells, they grow faster than normal cells, they don't do the normal job of the cells, and they don't stop growing when they should.  Overtime, these cells start to crowd the normal cells.  This can lead to serious problems like anemia (a condition where your body does not contain enough red blood cells), bleeding, and infections.  Leukemia can also spread to the lymph nodes (an oval-shaped organ of the immune system) or other organs and cause swelling and/or pain.  There are several different types of Leukemia, it is grouped by how fast it worsens and what kind of white blood cell it affects.  Leukemia can be acute or chronic.  Acute Leukemia worsens faster and may make the person feel sick right away.  Chronic Leukemia worsens slower and may cause symptoms for years.  Lymphocytic or Lymphoblastic Leukemia affects the white blood cells called lymphocytes.  Myelogenous affects white blood cells called myelocytes. 

Four Main Types of Leukemia:

  • Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL)
  • Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML)
  • Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL)
  • Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML)
In adults, CLL and AML are most common, in children, ALL is most common.  Childhood Leukemias also include:

  • AML
  • CML
  • Juvenile Myelomonocytic Leukemia (JMML)
The less common Leukemia is Hairy Cell Leukemia.  There are also subtypes of Leukemia, such as Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia (a subtype of AML).  The cause of Leukemia is unknown, although there are risk factors.

Risk Factors for Leukemia:

  • Being exposed to large amounts of radiation.
  • Being exposed to certain chemicals at work, such as benzene.
  • Had certain types of chemotherapy for treatment for another cancer.
  • Have Down Syndrome or other genetic problems.
  • Smoking.
Symptoms of Leukemia include:

  • Fever and night sweats.
  • Headaches.
  • Bleeding and bruising easily.
  • Bone or joint pain.
  • A swollen or painful belly from an enlarged spleen.
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the armpit, neck, or groin.
  • Getting multiple or frequent infections. 
  • Feeling very tired or weak.
  • Losing weight and loss of appetite.
If you have these symptoms, don't panic, just see your medical doctor and tell him or her about your concerns. Stay Informed!


  1. Hi Christine,
    Awesome information. I didn't really know much about Leukemia. I enjoy your posts.
    Patricia ♥

  2. I find medical information fascinating! Excited to be following your blog.
    Please follow back :)