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.

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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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    Apart from being aware of certain risk factors, it is impossible to say exactly how to prevent chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Even in the case of risk factors, most are beyond individual control. For example, having a brother or sister with the disease increases your risk, as does being a middle-aged or older male. Until the disease's root cause is discovered, true prevention will not be possible.

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    The specific cause of acute lymphoblastic leukemia is not known. Common to all cases is loss of normal growth regulation in a pre-lymphocyte (lymphoblast) in the bone marrow. In some cases, DNA / chromosome rearrangements called translocations are detected. In a fraction of these, the study of that translocation in laboratory cells suggests a cause and effect relationship between the chromosome translocation and the loss of normal growth regulation. What causes this to occur is not known, so prevention of ALL is not possible. There are some environmental factors that can increase the risk of ALL and some other cancers, including exposure to certain chemicals (benzene is a big one), ionizing radiation ; avoidance of these exposures is feasible. Radiation dose in pediatric CT scans is currently carefully monitored and is "dialed down" from standard adult doses in pediatric hospitals due to our understanding of the potential risks involved.

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    Apart from being aware of certain risk factors-it is impossible to say exactly how to prevent chronic myelogenous leukemia. Even in the case of risk factors-most-such as gender and age-are beyond individual control. Until the disease's root cause is discovered-true prevention will not be possible.

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    A variety of procedures including blood and genetic tests are used to diagnose chronic myelogenous leukemia. Blood tests called complete blood counts reveal abnormal numbers of white blood cells. A test called bone marrow aspiration uses a needle to remove marrow from the hipbone for analysis. Genetic tests take these blood and bone marrow samples and look for the presence of the Philadelphia chromosome and the gene it produces.

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    Because the disease affects white blood cells, acute lymphoblastic leukemia opens the body up to a variety of other infections. This is because white blood cells are the front-line soldiers in the body's fight against bacterial infection. In fact, secondary infections are one of the greatest health risks people undergoing initial treatment for the disease face. Because of this, during treatment, as the body is replenishing its supply of healthy white blood cells, doctors will often administer a round of antibiotics to prevent or treat bacterial infections.

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    Unfortunately, a child cannot be treated with his or her cord blood if he or she contracts leukemia because leukemic cells are present at birth.

    However, there have been uses of donated cord-blood-derived embryonic like (CBE) cells for leukemia and other cancers, as well as immune disorders.

    They also have been used to treat such conditions as Type 1 diabetes.

    Citing current statistics, the American Academy of Pediatrics counsels parents to donate their baby's cord blood to public banks. Some physicians suggest private cord blood banks for a baby's cord blood only if the family has a history of a disease that is treatable by a CBE stem cell.

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    Leukemia can strike people of any age, but some forms are more common in children than adults and vice versa. Symptoms are the same regardless of age, but treatment options can vary somewhat for children with the disease. The prognosis, or outlook, of the disease can also vary somewhat. For example, five-year survival rates for acute lymphoblastic leukemia are 66 percent overall, but over 90 percent for children under the age of five.

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    Chronic myelogenous leukemia begins when cells in the bone marrow malfunction and interrupt normal production of blood cells. The precise cause of this malfunction is almost always the appearance of an abnormal chromosome-the building blocks of cells. This new chromosome-called the Philadelphia chromosome-results from two neighboring chromosomes switching parts of their structure-which results in the formation of a new gene. This new gene then begins producing a certain protein called tyrosine kinase-which in turn promotes the growth of cancer cells. These leukemic cells-called blasts or granulocytes-do not function properly once released into the blood stream and soon begin to upset the regular balance of healthy blood cells in the body.

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    Adult acute lymphoblastic leukemia affects the body by disrupting the normal balance of white and red blood cells in the body. 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 lymphoblasts spread to the brain, headaches and nausea can result, while cancerous cells spreading to the liver and spleen irritate the tissues there, causing them to swell. Finally, painful bones can result from the cancerous cells spreading into the bone marrow.