Leukemia is a form of cancer that affects the blood and bone marrow. Marrow refers to the tissue that is found inside the spaces in the bones. This is where the process called hematopoiesis (forming of the blood cells) occur.
Leukemia comes in four types:
- ALL: Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia, or Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia
- AML: Acute Myelogenous Leukemia, or Acute Myeloid Leukemia
- CLL: Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia, or Chronic Lymphoblastic Leukemia
- CML: Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia, or Chronic Myeloid Leukemia
These types differ in treatment and presentation, although they all start inside the bone marrow.
Lymphocytic vs. Myelogenous Leukemia
Leukemia is referred to as lymphocytic (or lymphoblastic) if the cancer starts inside a bone marrow cell where lymphocytes are formed.
It is called myelogenous (or myeloid) if the cancer begins in a bone marrow cell that manufactures red blood cells, platelets, and some kinds of white blood cells.
Acute vs. Chronic Leukemia
Acute leukemia is one that occurs in immature blast cells. These cells would crowd out the normal cells inhibiting their growth inside the marrow. This type of leukemia can progress quickly if not treated immediately.
In chronic leukemia, on the other hand, there are no immature blast cells. This type progresses more slowly but still requires immediate medical attention.
The exact cause of leukemia is not known. Risk factors for the AML type of leukemia include down syndrome, genetic disorders, previous chemotherapy treatment, constant exposure to chemicals called benzenes, smoking, and constant exposure to radiation. It's important to note however that not all people who have these risk factors will develop leukemia. It's also known that many leukemia patients do not have these mentioned risks.
Signs and Symptoms
Signs and symptoms of Acute Leukemia include low energy, lethargy, exhaustion, difficulty in breathing, pale skin, fever, night sweats, cuts and bruises that are slow to heal, excessive bleeding, tiny red spots under the skin, painful joints and bones, and frequent infections and illnesses. These are due to the low number of healthy red blood cells that carry oxygen to the other cells, platelets that assist in blood clot formation, and white blood cells that fight off infection.
For non-advanced Chronic leukemia, on the other hand, doesn't have these signs and symptoms. Usually, this is discovered only after a routine check-up. For advanced chronic leukemia, the symptoms may be similar to those of acute leukemia patients. It also happens sometimes that symptoms of leukemia is confused with other illnesses. This is why, it is imperative to consult a health practitioner if you experience the symptoms mentioned above.