Learn how to recognize these types of leukemia and the symptoms associated with them.
Leukemia is a cancer that affects the blood cells, and is sometimes also referred to as blood cancer. This disease originates in the bone marrow, the soft tissue inside our bones where blood cells are made. The red blood cells carry oxygen to all the parts of the human body, the white blood cells help the body to fight against infection, and the platelets help the blood to clot. In a person affected with leukemia, the bone marrow starts making numerous leukemia cells, which are abnormal white blood cells. These cells grow faster than normal cells and over time, they crowd and outnumber the bone marrow’s healthy blood cells. This can lead to serious problems in your body, including anemia and infections. In addition, the leukemia cells can spread to your lymph nodes or other organs in the body, which may cause pain and swelling.
In adults, leukemia occurs most commonly in those who are older than 55 years. It is also the most common cancer in children, affecting those who are younger than 15 years.
There are different kinds of leukemia, depending on the type of blood cell in your body that has turned cancerous. The four main types of this disease are:
This cancer, also referred to as acute lymphocytic leukemia, causes your body to create too many lymphocytes or leukemic cells, which cannot fight infection effectively. When these cells build up in your bone marrow and blood, the space for healthy blood cells gets reduced. This can cause problems such as easy bleeding, infections, and anemia. This kind of leukemia worsens very fast. Usually occurring in children between the ages of 2 to 5 years, ALL is the most common type of leukemia in children. However, it also has the highest success rate when it comes to treatment.
ALL can also affect adults. The symptoms of ALL include bruising or bleeding easily, weakness, pinpoint spots under the skin caused from bleeding, loss of appetite, and bone pain.
Similar to acute lymphoblastic leukemia, AML is more commonly found in men than in women. This disease also affects children, but has been found to be more common in children who have Down syndrome or other genetic conditions.
An acquired rather than inherited condition, the cause of AML is not known. However, experts believe that it may be caused by smoking or other tobacco use, high doses of radiation, chemotherapy that has been used to treat other cancers, and exposure to a chemical called benzene.
The symptoms of AML, in both adults and children, are fever, fatigue, night sweats, and pain below the ribs. Children with AML may also get blue or purple lumps that are painless, easy bleeding or bruising, spots under the skin due to bleeding, and pain in the joints or bones. Adults may experience sudden weight loss.
CLL, sometimes referred to as chronic lymphoblastic leukemia, gets worse at a slower rate than acute leukemia. Children are rarely affected by CLL, and it occurs most commonly in men over the age of 60.
People who have CLL may notice their lymph glands and the spleen becoming swollen and painful. Those who have this kind of leukemia are also more prone to infections as the immune system does not work as well as it should.
Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) makes the body produce a significant number of myelocytes (white blood cells). Also called leukemic cells, myelocytes are not equipped to fight infection well. This kind of chronic leukemia progresses at a slow rate. Sometimes referred to as chronic granulocytic leukemia or chronic myeloid leukemia, CML occurs more frequently in adults in their 50s, and mostly in men.
Symptoms of this kind of leukemia include fever, weakness and fatigue, night sweats, poor appetite, and subsequent weight loss.
There are also some less common types of the disease, such as hairy cell leukemia. Subtypes of leukemia include acute promyelocytic leukemia (a subtype of AML).
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