A cancer of blood-forming tissues is referred to as leukemia. It is a disorder of the bone marrow. In this type of cancer, millions of abnormal white-blood cells are formed. These cells are called leukemia cells. Gradually, these cells outnumber the normal blood cells, thereby leading to anemia, bleeding, or other infections. They may also spread to the other parts of the body and cause swelling or pain.
There are four major types of leukemia: acute myelogenous leukemia, acute lymphocytic leukemia, chronic myelogenous leukemia, and chronic lymphocytic leukemia. The term lymphocytic indicates the cancerous changes in the type of bone marrow cells, which form the lymphocytes. In myelogenous or myeloid leukemia, the changes take place in a type of marrow cell that form the red blood cells, certain types of white cells, and platelets. Acute myelogenous leukemia and acute lymphocytic leukemia are composed of blast cells called myeloblasts or lymphoblasts. There are some other rare types such as juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia and hairy cell leukemia.
The causes of leukemia are unknown; however, experts believe that certain factors may trigger this condition. They are:
- Excessive exposure to radiation
- Occupational exposure to certain chemicals, such as benzene
The signs and symptoms of each type of leukemia are different. However, some common symptoms are as follows:
- Excessive tiredness
- Persistent infections
- Abnormal bleeding
- Slow healing of cuts
- Pain in bones and joints
- Night sweats
- Excessive bruising
- Persistent fevers
- Enlarged lymph glands, spleen, and liver
- Abdominal discomfort
- Weight loss
- Reduced exercise tolerance
- Pathological fractures
- Small red spots under the skin
- Black and blue marks for no known reason
- Swollen, bleeding gums
The severity of the symptoms depends upon the number of abnormal blood cells. In acute type of leukemia, symptoms appear quickly and get worse rapidly. Some other symptoms of acute leukemia are loss of muscle control, confusion, vomiting, and seizures. In a chronic type of leukemia, symptoms may not appear for a long time. It can also affect the kidneys, digestive system, lungs, or other parts of the body.
The early symptoms may resemble the symptoms of flu or other common illnesses; however, they should not be neglected. Since leukemia is a fatal disease, you should immediately seek medical treatment as soon as the aforementioned symptoms are observed.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.