Understanding Leukemia

Hi, my name is Tabetha, and today I’m going to talk to you all about Leukemia. Leukemia is a type of cancer. Cancer. The word is almost unspeakable. There are over 100 different types of cancer, and all 100 of these types of cancer have two things in common. The first is that all cancers for some unknown reason cause certain cells to mutate into abnormal cells. The second similarity is that these abnormal cells continue producing in mass numbers. Leukemia is a disease in which the bone marrow produces white blood cells that cannot carry out normal function. Bone marrow is a type of connective tissue that occupies the center cavities of most bones. There are two parts to bone marrow. The first is yellowish to white in color, and consists mostly of adipose…or fatty tissues. The second is red marrow, which is the formation site of red blood cells and blood granulocytes. A common result of Leukemia is the reduction of correctly functioning white and red blood cells. White Blood Cells function in protecting the body from sickness and infection. There are several types of White Blood Cells including monocytes, lymphocytes, neutrophils, eosinophils, and basophils. Anemia is a lower-than-normal number of red cells in the blood. Red blood cells are important becasue they carry oxygen from the lungs to all other cells in the body. Shortness of breath, fatigue, and weakness are signs of anemia.

In Acute Leukemia, indications of the disease appear suddenly and worsen quickly. During Chronic Leukemia, the symptoms gradually progress, and may go unnoticed for months. Some of these symptoms include constant exhaustion, aching and flu-like symptoms, extreme enexplainable bruising, and the tendency for bones to break. Also, becasue of malfunctioning blood cells such as red blood cells and platelets, victims of leukemia do not have proper blood clotting abilities, so a tiny cut from shaving can bleed for days. Also, because of malfunctioning red blood cells, Anemia tends to make the individual pale. Malfunctioning white blood cells cause an increased amount of fevers and infections. Individuals may lose their appetite, along with a lot of body weight. The lymph nodes, liver, and spleen may become swollen and tender, bleeding gums, extreme sweating, especially at night , and unexplained bone or joint pain.

If an individual goes to the doctor with these symptoms, the Doctor can do a routine physical check out to check their suspicions First the Doctor will check lymph nodes, the liver, and the spleen for pain and swelling. If the results of the physical are still suspicious to the doctor, blood work can be administered. The blood is placed on a slide to be looked at under a microscope. The slide is more suspicious depending on the extreme amount of blasts that are calculated. Blasts are immature blood cells. Large amounts of immature blood cells are a good indication of a blood disease. The next step is a Biopsy, or more correctly, a bone marrow aspiration. This is a more invasive procedure, and may cause a certain amount of pressure and discomfort. This procedure is done by inserting a needle into the bone and extracting the bone cells and bone marrow. These cells are usually taken from the hip. If cancerous cells are found in the bone marrow, a spinal tap will be done to verify the extent of the cancer.

The treatments for chemotheratpy very from individual to individual. The type of treatment depends not only on the type of Leukemia, but also certain features of the Leukemia cells, extent of the disease, adn whether this is the first time to treat it. Once you have achieved remission, every relapse is harder to overcome. Acute Leukemia can usually be cured, and the key is immediate treatment. However, chronic leukemia is very rarely curable even when found at an early stage. Treatments can be given in order to keep symptoms at bay, and slow the process down, but with chronic leukemia it is still harder to reach remission. Most patients with leukemia are treated with chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. Depending on the type of leukemia, patients may receive a single drug or a combination of two or more drugs.

Often, patients who need to have many IV treatments receive the drugs through a catheter. One end of this thin, flexible tube is placed in a large vein, often in the upper chest. Drugs are injected into the catheter, rather than directly into a vein, to avoid the discomfort of repeated injections and injury to the skin. Bone marrow transplantation can also be used for some patients. The patient’s Leukemia-producing bone marrow is destroyed by high doses of drugs and radiation and is then replaced by healthy bone marrow. The healthy bone marrow can come from a donor, or it can be marrow that has been removed from the patient and stored before the high dose treatment. If the patient’s own bone marrow is used, it may first be treated outside the body to remove Leukemia cells. Patients who have a bone marrow transplant usually stay in the hospital for several weeks. Until the transplanted bone marrow begins to produce enough white blod cells, patients have to be carefully protected from infection. The effects of Leukemia treatment include a reduction in white and red blood cell and platelet production, hair loss, nausea, vomiting, and fatigue.

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