Leukemia

Leukemia

You may be surprised to find that leukemia isnt just one type of cancer but actually a category of multiple cancers that affect our blood cells. Both children and adults can be diagnosed with these cancers, which cause our bone marrow to produce abnormal white blood cells. These abnormal cells, called leukemic cells, can accumulate in the bone marrow and blood, crowding out any healthy white blood cells. The white blood cells exist to fight infection and disease. The leukemic cells also harm our platelets, which protects us from bleeding out, and the red blood cells that carry oxygen throughout our bodies. Leukemia can progress either rapidly (acutely) or slowly (chronically). Depending on its progression and the type of cell it affects, a leukemia diagnosis can fall into four broad categories. Regardless of the type, infection, anemia and bleeding are common effects of this cancer.

Recently Answered

  • 1 Answer
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    Sometimes, leukemia and/or its treatment can affect your physical functioning and energy. For instance, some leukemia treatments may cause fatigue and/or peripheral neuropathy (pain, numbness or tingling in the hands or feet), which can affect your ability to participate in your normal activities. Oncology rehabilitation can help in the following ways:
    • Overcome physical deficits (e.g., difficulty walking).
    • Reduce pain.
    • Alleviate muscle discomfort.
    • Improve strength and endurance.
    • Promote coordination.
    • Resolve swallowing difficulties.

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    Many leukemia patients experience bone or joint pain that results from the bone marrow being overcrowded with leukemia cells. Sometimes the side effects of leukemia treatments can result in pain. For example, some drug therapies and radiation therapy can damage the nerves and cause neuropathic pain.

    Because of the complex nature of leukemia-related pain, successful cancer pain management usually involves a combination of techniques. To control pain, your team may use any of the following:
    • Medications (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, anti-convulsants, narcotics)
    • Nerve blocks
    • Pain patches or pumps
    • Steroid injections
    • Acupuncture
    Throughout your treatment, your leukemia pain management practitioner will reassess your pain and modify your plan accordingly.

    Sometimes, pain medications can make you feel sedated and fatigued. Your pain management practitioner will adjust your medications to seek a balance between pain relief and quality of life. The goal is to help you achieve cancer pain control so you can fight the disease, while continuing to participate in activities you enjoy.
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    The following are some of the oncology rehabilitation therapies you may incorporate into your leukemia treatment:
    • Physical therapy: This type of oncology rehab combines range-of- motion training with light resistance exercises to help alleviate breathing problems, improve appetite, relieve constipation, reduce stress and increase energy.
    • Occupational therapy: These therapies can help you perform daily living activities, such as grooming, dressing, showering and eating, so you can continue to live as independently as possible.
    • Auriculotherapy: This non-invasive technique, which involves an electrical stimulation to the external ear, can help alleviate side effects, such as balance problems, nausea, shortness of breath and fatigue.
    • ReBuilder: This form of oncology rehab involves an electronic stimulation to an affected area (such as the hands and feet) to increase tactile sensory and awareness, can help improve peripheral neuropathy.
    • Massage therapy: This type of touch therapy can help restore a sense of harmony, relaxation and well-being during leukemia treatment.
    • Interactive metronome: This series of computer-generated sounds to measure a rhythmic beat and response can be used to increase concentration and improve balance, function and cognition during leukemia treatment.
    • Speech and language pathology: Some leukemia treatments may cause dry mouth or difficulty swallowing, which can limit your ability to eat. A speech therapist will work with other members of your care team to address these problems.
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    Most cancers are staged based on the size and spread of tumors. However, because leukemia already occurs in the developing blood cells within the bone marrow, leukemia staging is a little bit different. The stages of leukemia are often characterized by blood cell counts and the accumulation of leukemia cells in other organs, like the liver or spleen.

    Leukemia stages vary based on disease type. Some of the leukemias may be broken out into subtypes during the staging process.

    The acute types of leukemia (AML and ALL), are sometimes staged based on the type of cell involved and how the cells look under a microscope. This is called the French-American-British (FAB) classification system.

    Lymphocytic leukemias (CLL and ALL) occur in a type of white blood cell called lymphocytes. The white blood cell count at the time of diagnosis may be used to help stage the leukemia. Likewise, staging for myeloid leukemias (CML and AML) is based on the number of myeloblasts (immature white blood cells) found in the blood or bone marrow.

    The following are factors affecting leukemia staging and prognosis:
    • White blood cell or platelet count
    • Age (advanced age may negatively affect prognosis)
    • History of prior blood disorders
    • Chromosome mutations or abnormalities
    • Bone damage
    • Enlarged liver or spleen
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    AHealthwise answered

    You can do things at home to help manage your side effects. If your doctor has given you instructions or medicines to treat these symptoms, be sure to follow them. In general, healthy habits such as eating a balanced diet and getting enough sleep and exercise may help control your symptoms.

    • Home treatment for nausea or vomiting includes watching for and treating early signs of dehydration, such as a dry mouth or feeling lightheaded when you stand up. Eating smaller meals may help. A little bit of ginger candy or ginger tea can help too.
    • Home treatment for diarrhea includes resting your stomach and being alert for signs of dehydration. Check with your doctor before you use any nonprescription medicines for your diarrhea.
    • Home treatment for constipation includes gentle exercise along with drinking enough fluids and eating a diet that is high in fruits, vegetables and fiber. Check with your doctor before you use a laxative for your constipation.

    Other problems that can be treated at home include:

    • Sleep problems. If you have trouble sleeping, going to bed at a regular time and getting exercise daily are some things that can help.
    • Feeling very tired. If you lack energy or become weak easily, try to manage your energy and get extra rest.
    • Hair loss. Tips include using a mild shampoo and a soft hairbrush.
    • Pain. Home treatment can help you manage pain.

    Handling the stress of having cancer: Having cancer can be very stressful. It may feel overwhelming to face the challenges in front of you. Finding new ways of coping with the symptoms of stress may improve your overall quality of life.

    These ideas may help:
    • Get the support you need. Spend time with people who care about you, and let them help you.
    • Take good care of yourself. Get plenty of rest, and eat nourishing foods.
    • Talk about your feelings. Find a support group where you can share your experience.
    • Try new ways to relax. And do things each day that help you stay calm and relaxed. Stress reduction techniques may help.

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    Fatigue: Leukemia can cause individuals to have too few red blood cells, resulting in anemia. Anemia can make the individual feel tired by decreasing the number of red blood cells that can carry oxygen to tissues. Treatment for leukemia, such as with chemotherapy, can also cause a drop in red blood cells, leading to fatigue.

    Excess bleeding: Blood cells called platelets help control bleeding by prompting the blood to clot. A shortage of blood platelets (thrombocytopenia) can result in easy bleeding and bruising, including frequent or severe nosebleeds, bleeding from the gums, or tiny red marks caused by bleeding into the skin.

    Pain: Leukemia can cause bone pain or joint pain as the bone marrow expands when excess white blood cells build up.

    Enlarged spleen: Some of the extra blood cells produced when an individual has leukemia are stored in the spleen, causing the spleen to become swollen or enlarged. Rarely, the spleen becomes so large that it is at risk of bursting. More commonly, the swollen spleen takes up space in the abdomen and makes the individual feel full even after small meals or causes pain on the left side of the body below the ribs and difficulty breathing.

    Infection: White blood cells help the body fight off infection. Although individuals with leukemia have too many white blood cells, these cells are often leukemic (damaged) and do not function properly. As a result, they are not able to fight infection as well as healthy white cells can. In addition, treatment can cause the white cell count to drop too low (neutropenia), also making individuals vulnerable to infection.

    Metastasis: Metastasis is the movement or spreading of cancer cells from one organ or tissue to another. Leukemic cells in the blood can deposit into organs and tissues, such as the brain and spine, causing further cancer development.

    Death: If leukemia cannot be successfully treated, it ultimately is fatal.

    You should read product labels, and discuss all therapies with a qualified healthcare provider. Natural Standard information does not constitute medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

    Copyright © 2012 by Natural Standard Research Collaboration. All Rights Reserved.

  • 1 Answer
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    • Chemical exposure avoidance: If the individual works with chemicals on a daily basis, such as in the case of hairdressers, printers, and painters, they should follow all safety instructions to avoid unsafe exposure. If an individual has their own well as their water source, they may wish to have it tested for contaminants such as lead and arsenic, which both may be linked to cancer. Local health departments can be a source of water testing.

    • Exercise and weight control: Controlling weight and exercising regularly can reduce the risk of developing cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends at least 30 minutes of physical activity five or more days a week if the individual can physically tolerate it.

    • Fruits, vegetables and whole grains: Fruits, vegetables and whole grains contain vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants, which may help protect from developing various types of cancer. Eating five or more servings of fresh fruits and vegetables every day is important for good health. A variety of produce should be included in the individual's diet such as kale, chard, spinach, dark green lettuce, peppers, and squashes.

    • Limit alcohol consumption: Consuming moderate to heavy amounts of alcohol, such as more than one drink a day for women and two for men, may increase the risk of developing certain cancers. This is particularly true if the individual has a close relative, such as a parent, child or sibling with cancer.

    • Smoking cessation: Smoking can increase the risk of cancers such as lung and bladder.

    • Vitamins and minerals: Calcium, magnesium, pyridoxine (vitamin B6), and folic acid may help reduce the risk of certain cancers. Good food sources of calcium include skim or low-fat milk and other dairy products, shrimp, and soy products such as tofu and soy milk. Magnesium is found in leafy greens, nuts, peas and beans. Food sources of vitamin B6 include grains, legumes, peas, spinach, carrots, potatoes, dairy foods and meat. Folic acid is found in dark leafy greens such as spinach and lettuce, and in legumes, melons, bananas, broccoli and orange juice.

    You should read product labels, and discuss all therapies with a qualified healthcare provider. Natural Standard information does not constitute medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

    Copyright © 2012 by Natural Standard Research Collaboration. All Rights Reserved.

  • 1 Answer
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    AHealthwise answered

    Call your doctor to schedule an appointment if you have any symptoms, such as:

    • A new lump or swollen gland in your neck, under your arm or in your groin.
    • Frequent nosebleeds, bleeding from the gums or rectum, more frequent bruising or very heavy menstrual bleeding.
    • Frequent fevers.
    • Night sweats.
    • Bone pain.
    • Unexplained appetite loss or recent weight loss.
    • Feeling tired a lot without a known reason.
    • Swelling and pain on the left side of the belly.

    Watchful waiting

    Watchful waiting is a period when your doctor is checking you regularly but not treating you. It may be a treatment choice if you are an older adult, depending on the stage of the leukemia and your overall health.

    Doctors may use watchful waiting for patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) at first because treatment may not be needed. For example, it is estimated that 1 out of 3 people who have CLL never need treatment. 5 People who have CLL often live for a long time without treatment.

    Watchful waiting isn't usually recommended for other types of leukemia.

    During watchful waiting, you will:

    • Have regular appointments with your doctor.
    • Have regular medical tests, including scans and blood tests.
    • Be told which symptoms to report to your doctor immediately.

    Who to see

    Health professionals who can evaluate symptoms of leukemia include the following:

    • Family medicine physician
    • Internist
    • Pediatrician
    • Nurse practitioner
    • Physician assistant
    The diagnosis of leukemia will be done by a medical oncologist, pediatric oncologist, or hematologist. These specialists also treat leukemia.

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    • 1 Answer
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      AHealthwise answered

      Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) is a type of cancer that causes the body to make a large number of white blood cells (myelocytes). But these myelocytes, called leukemia cells, cannot fight infection very well.

      When leukemia cells build up in the blood and bone marrow, there is less room for healthy blood cells. This can cause infections, anemia and easy bleeding. AML usually gets worse quickly. It sometimes is referred to as acute myeloid leukemia, acute myelocytic leukemia, myeloblastic leukemia, granulocytic leukemia or acute nonlymphocytic leukemia.

      AML is more common in men than in women. It also affects children. The incidence of AML increases with age.

      AML is an acquired rather than inherited disease. Usually the cause of AML is unknown. But it may be caused by high doses of radiation, exposure to the chemical benzene, smoking and other tobacco use and chemotherapy used to treat other types of cancer. Also, it is more common in children with Down syndrome or other genetic conditions.

      Symptoms of AML in adults and children include weakness and fatigue, fever, night sweats or a pain or feeling of fullness below the ribs. Adults may have unexplained weight loss. Children also may have easy bruising or bleeding, pinpoint spots under the skin from bleeding, painless blue or purple lumps and bone or joint pain.

      AML has several subtypes. A doctor can tell one from another by looking at AML cancer cells. Each subtype has different proteins on the surface of a cell or different chromosome changes in a cell. Knowing the type or subtype helps doctors plan the most effective treatment.

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    • 1 Answer
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      AHealthwise answered

      Acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) is a kind of acute myeloid leukemia (AML), which is a type of blood cancer. APL is a leukemia that can cause a life-threatening bleeding problem called disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC).

      APL is a problem with how blood cells grow at a certain point of development (the promyelocyte stage). They grow in odd shapes. And they cannot do what normal blood cells do.

      Symptoms of APL include weakness and fatigue, fever, poor appetite, easy bruising or bleeding and weight loss.

      People with APL need a special mix of cancer treatments that fight the cancer cell growth and control the risk of life-threatening bleeding.

      This type of acute leukemia tends to have a better outcome than other types of AML.

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