Most people perceive Leukemia as being cancer of the blood. This is partly true, but it is a lot more than that. It actually starts in the tissue that produces blood, resulting in abnormal white cells. These don't die as normal blood cells do, and swamp the normal red and white cells and also the platelets, making these cells difficult to do their jobs. These abnormal white cells are actually called Leukemia cells and if they carry on crowding out the normal cells and platelets cause the untimely death of the sufferer.
There are two main kinds of Leukemia, each defined by the way it develops and the speed with which it progresses. These are chronic and acute, which progress slowly and rapidly respectively. In the early stages of Chronic Leukemia, the abnormal cells are still able to work alongside the normal cells, albeit at a reduced rate. As there are no early presentable symptoms, this type is generally diagnosed at a routine health check. In the later stages, when the abnormal cells have reached a critical point, suffers may notice that their lymph nodes are swollen or repeated infections. The abnormal cells in Acute Leukemia can't do any of the work of the normal cells, and they can increase at an alarming rate. These two kinds of Leukemia are then split into further types depending on where they present themselves. The types that appears in the Lymphoid cells are Lymphocytic, Lymphoid or Lymphoblastic. The Leukemias in the Myeloid cells are Myelogenous, Myeloid or Myeloblastic.
There is still no proven reason why some people develop Cancer and those with he same lifestyle don't. Although many have theories it is still a medical mystery. Smoking is widely regarded as a major cause of Cancer, in this case acute Myeloid Leukemia, but there are many non smokers who develop it, and many smokers who don't. Inherited diseases are also thought to play a part, and there sometimes seems to be a family link with Cancer, but unfortunately it still seems to be a lottery as to who will develop Cancer and who won't. It is a fact that many who would be classed as high risk will never develop a Cancer during their lifetime, and this is what is so scary about this ferocious disease.
There are many different kinds of Leukemia treatment, mainly depending on the type. Your age also plays a factor in the treatment, and whether or not the Leukemia cells were present in the fluid produced from a spinal tap. The main treatments are targeted therapy, chemotherapy, biological therapy, stem cell or bone marrow transplant and radiotherapy. As with all Cancers, early diagnosis is vital, something that can be very difficult in Chronic Leukemia.
We should all do what we can to stay fit and healthy so that our bodies continue to do their job effectively, but sadly there are no guarantees that we won't develop Leukemia at some stage. Research is constant and treatment continues to improve, but all we can really do is hope that none of us develop this cruel disease.
Roberto Sedycias works as an IT consultant for Polomercantil
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