The term 'leukemia' refers to the development of malignant growth due to an abnormal and uncontrolled cell division in the blood-forming tissue. When we talk about the blood-forming tissue, we are referring to the bone marrow, wherein the production of new blood cells takes place. Leukemia is the cancer of the blood or the bone marrow, that is characterized by the production of large number of immature or abnormal white blood cells by the bone marrow.
Some people may be genetically predisposed to develop this disease, while some may develop it in event of exposure to radiation. Sometimes, pathological infections may act as the trigger. Cancer of the blood could be acute or chronic, depending on the rate at which the production of abnormal blood cells. When it is acute, the cancer cells may soon spread to other parts of the body, which is why, early detection of leukemia, followed by prompt treatment can certainly prove beneficial and help to avert a medical crisis.
Though progression of chronic leukemia is not that fast, if detected and treated at an early stage, cancer may go into remission, and the quality of life of the patient would surely be better. In this article, we will look into the significance of early diagnosis and timely treatment of cancer of the blood.
Early Signs of Leukemia
The cancer of the blood is classified into lymphoblastic/lymphocytic and myelogenous leukemia. The classification is made on the basis of the bone marrow cell types that are affected by this serious condition. When one suffers from this condition, the production of abnormal white blood cells by the bone marrow is accompanied by a drop in the red blood cells and platelet count. Low red blood cell count is manifested in the form of anemia.
While pale skin is the most characteristic sign of anemia, low platelet count may also make one susceptible to easy bruising and bleeding. A person suffering from anemia also experiences fatigue and weakness. Since the white blood cells, that the bone marrow is producing, are immature and abnormal, one is most likely to suffer from recurring infections.
Loss of appetite, unexplained weight loss, swelling and bleeding in gums or joint pain are some of the early signs and symptoms that may be experienced by the patient. If such symptoms persist, the patient must get a thorough medical checkup done. If detected in the initial stages, one may respond well to the treatment, and cancer can be prevented from spreading to other parts of the body. If one is aware of the early signs of this deadly disease, there's a good chance of this deadly disease being detected in the early stages.
Early Diagnosis of Leukemia
If a person has been exhibiting the aforementioned symptoms, the wise thing to do would be to consult a doctor. Since leukemia is a cancer of the blood, blood work certainly plays a vital role in the diagnosis of this disease. The values of white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets can certainly provide valuable insights to the doctors. If the number of white blood cells is abnormally high, and the other symptoms are also present, then doctors may perform a blood smear or a bone marrow biopsy.
The bone marrow biopsy involves the collection of a bone marrow sample, followed by the examination of the sample. If abnormal cells are found in the sample, other tests may be performed in order to find out if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. Once the diagnosis has been confirmed, the patient would have to undergo chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Biological therapy or targeted therapy are other treatment options that may be considered by medical experts.
The main objective of the treatment is to destroy the cancer cells. These cells may be destroyed through chemotherapy (use of chemical agents) or radiation therapy (use of high-energy rays). Targeted therapy involves the use of certain drugs that target the changes that take place in the cells. These days, monoclonal antibodies are also being used for triggering an immune response. These antibodies bind themselves to antigens on cancer cells, and stimulate the immune system to kill the cancer cells.
Early diagnosis of leukemia certainly increases one's chances of recovering from this deadly disease. Unlike the advanced or final stages of this disease, where the cancerous cells would have spread to other parts of the body, if one is fortunate enough to be detected with cancer of blood in early stages, a timely treatment will lower the risks associated with this deadly disease. The survival rate and prognosis is much better if the disease is detected in the early stages.