Leukaemia


Last Updated December 20th, 2021

Overview of leukaemia

One common types of malignancies affecting millions worldwide is Leukaemia. It can attack people of any age group or ethnic group and is normally fatal in nature. The rise in the count of leukaemia cases and reported deaths has alarmed global health organizations. According to annual reports of American Cancer Society, about 11860 death cases were reported in the year 2016 due to different types of Leukaemia.

Malignancies have become a major cause of morbidity and mortality in the recent years. According to statistics of UK Cancer Research Organization, 14.1 million cases of cancer were reported in the year 2012, out of which 8.2 million resulted in death. Survival rates in acute cases of malignancy are very low.

Definition of Leukaemia

leukaemiaLeukaemia is the acute pathological condition in which abnormal cell growth takes place in the bone marrow (spongy tissue found within bones), which then spreads via circulating blood to other parts of the body.

In this condition, the bone marrow is infested with abnormal cells and has insufficient space for the development of healthy red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.

Leukaemia gives rise to three main clinical conditions –

  • Anaemia (due to drop in Red Blood Cell count)
  • Neutropenia (due to shortage of White Blood Cells)
  • Thrombocytopenia (due to lack of platelets)

Depending on the type of blood-forming cell giving rise to Leukaemia, it can be of two types- lymphoid leukaemia and myeloid leukaemia.

Causes of Leukaemia

Leukaemia conditions may arise due to various extrinsic and intrinsic factors, which are discussed below-

  • DNA damage: Destruction or mutation of DNA of White Blood Cells due to various factors cause activation of oncogenes (cancerous genes) and deactivation of tumor suppressor genes (cancer-preventing genes) and lead to Leukaemia.
  • Radiation: Unprotected exposure to harmful radiations (ionizing or non-ionizing) during different diagnostic tests such as imaging, or radiotherapy to treat existing diseases can lead to Leukaemia in future.
  • Chemicals: Toxicity induced by certain chemicals such as benzene, mercury, cadmium etc can cause Leukaemia in patients who are exposed to these chemicals on a regular basis (due to occupational hazards).
  • Viral infections: Past infection with Human T-cell Lymphoma Virus-1 (HTLV-1) can cause lymphocytic leukaemia.
  • Heredity: Few inherited syndromes such as Down syndrome, Klinefelter syndrome or Neurofibromatosis can predispose an individual to Leukaemia.
  • Auto-immune disorders: Immune suppression can lead to abnormal cell growth within the body, increasing the risks of Leukaemia.
  • Blood disorders: Certain blood diseases such as Thrombocythemia and Myelofibrosis increase the possibilities of Acute Myeloid Leukaemia.
  • Substance abuse: Addictive habits like excessive cigarette smoking or alcoholism can damage different organs of the body leading to Leukaemia.

Few other common causes may include exposure to electromagnetic radiation (due to proximity to power grids), direct contact with harmful chemicals such as diesel, gasoline or pesticides.

Symptoms of Leukaemia

leukeamia treatmentDifferent types of Leukaemia present different symptoms. The generalized symptoms are presented below-

  • Abdominal swelling due to aggregation of Leukaemia cells in the spleen and liver
  • Swollen lymph nodes due to spread of cancerous cells in those regions
  • Acute joint pain due to accumulation of Leukaemia cells on the bone surface
  • Shortness of breath due to spread of leukaemia cells to lungs and bronchi
  • Headache, fatigue, seizures, nausea, vomiting, vision impairment and overall body imbalance due to intrusion of Leukaemia cells into the Central Nervous System
  • Frequent bleeding from the nose and gums
  • Frequent bruising which takes a long time to heal
  • Perspirations at night
  • Fever and general body ache
  • Loss of appetite and abnormal weight loss
  • Persistent infections
  • Minute reddish spots under the skin
  • Abnormal hair loss

Types of Leukaemia

Different classifications of Leukaemia are done based on different criteria. The first classification is done based on the degree of infection-

  • Acute Leukaemia: It is caused by an accumulation of excess immature leukaemia cells which reproduce quickly.
  • Chronic Leukaemia: It is caused by partially matured leukaemia cells which impede the body’s capacity to fight infections. These types of Leukaemia are difficult to cure.

Another classification is done based on the type of blood-forming cell giving rise to Leukaemia-

  • Myeloid Leukaemia: It initiates in the immature forms of myeloid cells (RBC, WBC, and platelets).
  • Lymphocytic Leukaemia: It starts in immature lymphocytes and spreads to other regions.

Combining the above classifications, the following classification has been proposed-

  • Acute myeloid and lymphoblastic Leukaemia: In this condition, the original leukaemia cells rapidly multiply and form more leukaemia cells. These cells are themselves non-functional and impede the development and normal functioning of other healthy cells inside the bone marrow.
  • Chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML): It is characterized by a drop in the count of Red Blood Cells (RBC) leading to anemia and an abnormal increase in the number of White Blood Cells (WBC).
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL): In this condition, an excess amount of non-functional lymphocytes are produced which rapidly replace the normal healthy cells in the bone marrow and lymph nodes. This disrupts the normal functioning of the healthy cells leading to loss of body’s immunity.

Vulnerable groups

Few individuals are more susceptible to Leukaemia conditions than others. The following vulnerable groups have been identified so far-

  • Infants between 2 to 5 years of age
  • Adults above 45
  • Males are more prone to Acute Myeloid Leukaemia than females
  • Aged people
  • African American people

Diagnostic tests

For proper treatment of Leukaemia, accurate and detailed diagnosis is mandatory. The following diagnostic tests are recommended by oncologists-

  • Blood tests (complete blood count and coagulation tests)
  • Bone marrow tests (bone marrow aspiration and biopsy)
  • Chromosome testing (to detect chromosomal aberrations)
  • Lumbar puncture (to detect spread of cancer cells into the brain and spinal cord)
  • Lymph node biopsy
  • Imaging tests ( X-rays, CT scan, MRI scan) 

Treatment

The treatment course of leukaemia depends upon a number of factors such as type of leukaemia, age and health of the patient and many more. But the most important factor is whether or not the disease has spread to the cerebrospinal fluid. Chemotherapy is the most widely practiced treatment method for this condition. Other treatment methods include radiation therapy, targeted therapy, and stem cell transplant. If the spleen becomes enlarged due to leukaemia, then it has to be surgically removed. If the condition is chronic, the chances of complete cure are minimal. Treatment and medications can help manage the symptoms.

Close monitoring of the progression of the disease becomes helpful in understanding and diagnosing the spread of the disease. While there are no definitive preventive measures for leukaemia, maintaining a safety around artificial ionizing radiation, benzene and other dangerous chemical, deadly pathogens such as HIV and HTLV, and tobacco can be helpful.

Unfortunately, Leukaemia or any kind of acute cancer cases do not have a complete cure, although survival period of patients may vary. In most cases of Leukaemia bone marrow transplants and chemotherapy are recommended by the oncologists. But both the treatments techniques are expensive and cannot be afforded by the majority of the Leukaemia patients in low and middle-income countries. Global health organizations are working on promoting advanced treatments to increase the life-expectancy of cancer patients in general.

 

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Dos and Don'ts

Dos
  • Consume a minimum sugar and fats diet. Avoid consuming sugar in breakfast.
  • Keep yourself adequately hydrated by drinking water (and not sodas).
  • Exercise often and go for routine physical check-ups.
Don'ts
  • Indulge in unhealthy habits such as smoking or drinking.
  • Consume hydrogenated oils such as corn oil or soybean oil.
  • Expose yourself to intense sunlight. Always wear protective sunscreen.

 

 

 

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Threatened abortion
A few facts about threatened abortion A threatened miscarriage indicates an early pregnancy loss. Look out for symptoms like bleeding, vaginal discharge, and pain.
social media adddiction
Your health in the age of Social Media: Why is digital detox a necessity? Did you know that more than 400 million people are dangerously addicted to social media? Are you one…
Sputum test Sputum test is a commonly used diagnostic tool that is used to examine the presence of pathogens in…
Urologist: When should you visit one and why? A urologist can treat not only genitourinary problems of both men and women but also can treat various…
stress depressed anxiety
Are you depressed or just stressed? Know when to see a doctor Why are some people more anxious than others? Is being depressed the same as feeling sad? Have you…
CBC blood test
CBC (Hemogram 6-part diff) blood test CBC (Hemogram 6-part diff) blood test refers to the test that measures the number of RBCs, WBCs, etc…
stain blood
Blood in your stool Know the reason for blood in your stool, toilet bowl or tissue and the important steps to take…
post circumcision
Circumcision Check to know everything about open , laser, stapler circumcision, and about preparation, procedure, risks, benefits , and…
Is bronchitis contagious? And how to prevent this infection? It is acute bronchitis that is contagious which means you can contract it from another person or you…
hYdroxycut pills
Hydroxycut: How safe are these so-called weight loss supplements? Hydroxycut is a blend of several different ingredients formulated to promote weight loss; powered by a key weight…
Grass-fed meat
Facts about grass-fed meat Grass-fed meat has a rich source of vitamins, minerals, and are low in fat and cholesterol. They are…
blood elements analysis
Blood Element Analysis Test A blood element analysis is a blood test performed to measure the level of toxic elements such as…
gallbladder diet tomato
Gallbladder surgery :Tips on post-operative care and diet What to eat post a gallbladder surgery? What are the key things to avoid if you had a…
Vitamin b12
Vitamin B12 Test Vitamin b12 is an essential nutrient required for healthy functioning of the nervous system and also development of…
Gatorade: Top things you need to know about this staple energy drink Gatorade is a popular (in fact the most popular) energy drink worldwide. But this power-packed drinks comes with…
blood ketone test
Blood Ketone (D3HB) Test The Blood Ketone Test measures and monitors the levels of ketone in the blood which is usually performed…
liver detox facts
7 liver detox facts and why ignoring these could kill you! Are you taking care of this organ that handles over 500 different vital functions in your body? Your…
Astaxanthin: Why experts believe it could be 550x more potent than vitamin E! What is astaxanthin and why is this new supplement on the block touted as the most powerful antioxidant…
amylase test
Amylase Test Amylase test is done by checking the level of this protein in the blood sample and also in…
complement c4 test
Complement 4 (C4) Test The Complement 4 or C4 test measures the level of the protein in the bloodstream, and is primarily…
ureteroscopy
Ureteroscopy Ureteroscopy is the diagnostic procedure which is used for the detection of the kidney stones in addition to…
Barium-enema
Barium Enema Barium enema is also known as colon x-ray. Here, the patient is asked to consume small amount of…
Ca 19.9 test
CA19.9 Test CA 19.9 is a cancer antigen that exists on the surface of cancer-causing cells. The levels of CA…
piles
Best treatment for piles in Bangalore All you need to know about piles and piles treatment in Bangalore - the types of treatment available,…
Shilajit: A miracle Himalayan herb for an active and happy life The Himalayas contain more wonders than you thought. Shilajit is a miracle herb that is widely used in…
Tamarind: The top health benefits of this staple Asian ingredient Did you know this sweet and sour pulpy fruit does more than just add a tangy flavor to…
Cordyceps: How the Caterpillar fungus works as a proven cancer-shield Strange as it may sound, but cordyceps or "caterpillar fungus", a fungus variety native to the Himalayas may…
Paleo snack
Paleo snacks Paleo snacks are healthy diet options that emphasize fresh foods and eliminate processed foods, dairy products, and sugar.
edamame
Edamame: How healthy are these green baby beans? Edamame or "immature" soybeans are soft and easily digestable forms of soybeans that are great as an eveyday…
Low fat diets
A complete list of low-fat diets and how to follow them Low-fat diets help you lose weight in a healthy way, but it works only with regular exercise and…
CEA_test
Carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) test CEA or carcinoembryonic test detects the presence of CEA antigen in your blood mainly & determines the effectiveness…
vdrl test syphilis
VDRL Test The VDRL test is a blood test that is used to diagnose sexually transmitted or venereal diseases, primarily…
Pelvic_ultrasound
Pelvic Ultrasound Pelvic ultrasound is a process where sound waves are used to create image of your pelvic region organs…
about mediterranean diet
Why you should be adopting a Mediterranean style of diet today Ever wondered why the Mediterranean diet is so healthy? One simple solution to lowering risk of several deadliest…
How can Kegels help you overcome weak pelvic muscles & incontinence? Kegel exercises are pelvic floor strengthening exercises that can help you overcome incontinence issues that rise out of…
avocado benefits
Avocado: 15 reasons why this fruit should be a staple in your diet Did you know that the word avocado literally means "testicles". Don't get grossed out as this power-packed fruit…
malarial antigen test
Malaria Antigen Test A malaria antigen test is a rapid diagnostic test (RDT) that can detect malarial antigens (proteins) in your…
Is it possible to achieve full body detox with Master Cleanse? Master cleanse is a diet consisting of a lemonade based beverage, a salt water drink and a herbal…
Sushi: health benefits and recipes Sushi is a traditional Japanese dish prepared with vinegared rice served with fish (often raw), vegetables, and other…
botox injection
Botox: Top things you should know before undergoing the procedure Botox is technically a toxic compound that is widely used in cosmetic procedure. But in addition to wrinkle-reduction,…
antiHEV IgM test
Anti hepatitis E virus (Anti HEV) IgM Test Anti HEV IgM test determines the level of the IgM antibodies in the blood, The disease is often…
free thyroxine ft4
Free thyroxine test (FT4) The FT4 or free thyroxine test is used to detect the level of free thyroxine of FT4 thyroid…
How to scrub away stress and fatigue with an Epsom salt bath? Epsom salt is a popular home remedy for many skin ailments. Though there is a lack of scientific…

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