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Is Leukemia Curable?

Is Leukemia Curable?

Curing leukemia depends on factors such as the age of the patient, the type of the disease, and its stage. Know more on this subject from the following compilation.
Rajib Singha
Last Updated: Feb 10, 2018
In the interior of the bones, there remains a flexible tissue known as bone marrow. This tissue is spongy, fatty, and it is responsible for manufacturing new blood cells (white and red blood cells and platelets) in large bones in humans. So basically, this is the blood forming tissue in the body. However, due to certain reasons, the bone marrow starts manufacturing white blood cells in numbers that is way higher than what is required.
These blood cells keep on growing but do not divide in an orderly way, unlike what the normal blood cells do. These abnormal cells are known as leukemia cells and the condition is known as leukemia. With time, as these abnormal white blood cells do not stop growing, they crowd out the normal blood cells, and leads to a number of serious complications such as anemia, bleeding, and infections.
Treatment for Leukemia
Whether leukemia is curable or not depends on several factors. The patient's age, his overall health, the kind of the cancer, and whether it has metastasized (spread to other parts of the body), influence the treatment. The below gives you a brief on the different types of leukemia that may affect people.
Mainly, leukemia can either be acute or chronic. Acute leukemia is characterized by the rapid multiplication of the abnormal white blood cells thus, the disease worsens quickly. On the other hand, the chronic form of the cancer, spreads slowly. It may produce no symptoms initially and go unnoticed for years.
Another classification deals with the types of white blood cells affected. When the lymphoid cells (lymphocytes) become cancerous, it is known as lymphocytic leukemia. The lymphocytes are the main building blocks of the lymphatic system, and this is what makes up the immune system. And when the myeloid cells (cells that are responsible for the manufacturing of white blood cells, red blood cells, and the platelets), it is known as myelogenous leukemia.
So the final classification would include:
  • Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL)
  • Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL)
  • Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML)
  • Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML)
Speaking of acute lymphocytic leukemia, fortunately, it is the most curable form of leukemia. It mostly affects children, and is also common in adults aged 65 or older. In children, the prognosis of this disease is better in children (survival rate is 85%) than in adults (50 %).
Then comes the case of chronic lymphocytic leukemia. It is known to be the most common leukemia that affects adults. However, as I have mentioned earlier, this cancer does not give rise to any symptoms for years. It is a rare occurrence in children. Unfortunately, this form of leukemia has no cure. However, there are treatment methods that can extend the survival rate of the person.
In acute myelogenous leukemia, adults are more affected than children, and men than women. Even this acute form of the cancer is a curable one, but again there are several factors which influence this opinion.
And finally, chronic myelogenous leukemia is again more common in adults than in children. Even this chronic form of leukemia, although treatable for most, is not a curable one.
Besides the above mentioned, there is one rare type of leukemia known as hairy cell leukemia, that affects a few number of people. Some doctors regard this disease as a subset of CLL. Whatever cases that have been identified are associated with adults, and not reported in children. And unfortunately, even this form of leukemia is incurable.
Causes and Symptoms - A Brief Overview
As it is with many types of cancers, even in this case, the exact causes are still an unidentified subject. Genes, or certain environmental factors may have some roles to play in the development though. Smoking, exposure to radiation, and chemicals are some factors which increase the risk to develop the cancer.
Common leukemia symptoms include:
  • Frequent episodes of infections
  • Weakness, fatigue
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Fever, may be accompanied by chills
  • Lymph nodes may swell up in the neck, armpit or groin area.
  • Swollen liver or spleen
  • Profuse perspiration
  • Bleeding from rectum, and gums
  • Headaches
To summarize, an acute form of leukemia has high chances of being cured as compared to its chronic form which is incurable.