One of the most tragic of all forms of cancer is Leukemia, which each year kills thousands of children all over the planet. Leukemia is a disorder of the blood, the bone marrow, and the lymphatic system. as one would expect with a system of this size, complexity, and importance to the body, there are numerous ways that things can go wrong. Because of this, there are various types of leukemia, all with different areas of activity and effects on the body.
There are a few ways to breakdown which type of leukemia is being dealt with. There are divisions that could be made based on whether or not the patient is a child or adult, for example. But most commonly the division is made based on how the blood cells are effected, and where the abnormality is taking place.
With symptoms that mimic those of many other, milder illnesses, leukemia is a difficult disease to diagnose initially. Some of the symptoms one is likely to experience are pervasive feelings of fatigue, constant chills and night sweats, and susceptibility to infection. As you can see, these are all conditions that could come from something as mundane as being overworked and run down. Many people assume that’s exactly what the problem is, and don’t seek help until their condition becomes so bad that they are unable to perform normal everyday activities without extreme discomfort.
When a person does report to the doctor, a blood test or bone marrow test may be conducted. These are the only ways to reliably screen for leukemia. Because of the variousness of the symptoms, and the invasiveness of the screening methods, leukemia often goes undiagnosed, by some estimates in as many as 20% of all cases.
The classification of leukemia arises from a four-fold matrix of conditions. The first axis is that of acute vs. chronic. In the case of acute leukemia, large numbers of immature blood cells are rapidly released. Since they are not fully developed, they crowd out the productive cells, resulting in quick deterioration of health. In the chronic case, blood cells are more mature and build up more slowly, resulting in a gradual worsening of health.
The second axis of the matrix is that of lymphocytic vs. myelogenous. Lymphocytic leukemia effects the cells which make up the body’s immune system. Myelogenous leukemia effects the myeloid cells, which are responsible for producing the range of blood cells-white, red, platelet-in the body. This matrix yields four distinct forms of the disease, all of which have different degrees of danger and populations within which they occur.
Unlike some other forms of cancer, leukemia is not primarily caused by any lifestyle choices. There is a strong genetic component, which can be exacerbated by exposure to radioactive compounds. If you have a history of leukemia in your family it is important to stay vigilant and aware of your health. There are different treatments available and the earlier you can diagnose the problem (especially with the acute leukemia) the more likely you can survive.