How does leukemia affect the body?

A Answers (2)

  • Leukemia affects the body by disrupting the normal balance of cells in the blood and their ability to do their jobs. Reduced levels of white blood cells, which normally defend the body from infection, can lead to higher chances of catching secondary diseases. Reduced levels of platelets, the cells that cause blood to clot, lead to more frequent bruises and nosebleeds. If the cancerous cells spread to the brain, headaches and nausea can result from tissues around the brain and spinal cord becoming irritated and inflamed. Finally, painful bones can result from the cancerous cells spreading into the bone marrow.

  • AHealthwise answered

    Your bone marrow is where stem cells grow. These stem cells become white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets.

    In most cases of leukemia, there are too many abnormal white blood cells. These leukemia cells crowd out the normal blood cells in your bone marrow and build up in your lymph nodes, liver and spleen.

    When the leukemia cells crowd out your normal cells, your blood can't do its job. You may bleed or bruise easily, have more infections and feel very tired.

    Survival rates

    Survival rates are different for each kind of leukemia. A 5-year survival rate is the percentage of people who are still alive 5 years or more after being diagnosed. These numbers do not necessarily show what will happen in your case. The following are estimated 5-year survival rates:

    • Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL):  39 out of 100 people
    • Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML):  From 5 to 65 out of 100 people
    • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL):  81 out of 100 people
    • Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML):  90 out of 100 people

    These numbers come from reports that were done at least 5 years ago, before newer treatments were available. So chances of survival today are likely to be higher than these numbers.


    Leukemia can go away. People sometimes call this a "cure." But your doctor may use the term "remission" instead of "cure" when talking about the effectiveness of your treatment. Many people who have leukemia are successfully treated, but the term remission is used because cancer can return (recur). It is important to discuss the possibility of recurrence with your doctor.

    This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. To learn more visit

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