10 Frequently Asked Questions about Leukemia
Questions about Leukemia: Affecting millions every year, Leukemia is one of the most common types of cancer around the world. It is a cancer of blood caused due to the abnormal growth of white blood cells in the bone marrow. The FAQs will help you in understanding more about the disease.
What are the signs and symptoms of leukemia?
The symptoms of blood cancer may vary depending on the types of leukemia. Some of them include:
- Loss of Weight
- Poor Appetite
- Easy Bruising and Bleeding
- Bleeding and Swelling of Gums
- Pain in Bones and Joints
- Frequent Infections
- Fatigue and Weakness
- Swollen lymph nodes, spleen, or liver
- Fever Chills
After the detection of these symptoms, the patient must consult a good doctor and get the blood cancer treatment started. Advisable is to go to hospitals like Max Healthcare, which is known to be the best cancer hospital in Delhi, India.
What are the causes of leukemia?
The exact cause of this type of blood cancer is still unknown. However, there are some factors that are closely associated with the occurrence of leukemia. The factors include smoking, family history, exposure to high levels of radiation and chemicals like Benzene, genetic disorders such as Down syndrome, and blood disorders such as myelodysplastic syndrome.
What are the different types of leukemia?
Depending on various factors, leukemia is classified into 4major types:
- Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL): It is the most common type of leukemia among children. It affects the lymphoid cells and grows quickly.
- Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML): This type of leukemia affects the myeloid cells and also proliferates like ALL.
- Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL): CLL grows slowly and affects the lymphoid cells. It is quite common among adults.
- Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML): In this type of leukemia, the person may not show signs for several months and even years in many cases. It affects myeloid cells and begins at a slow pace.
Apart from the above-listed types of leukemia, there are also some other rare types such as hairy cell leukemia, myeloproliferative disorder, and myelodysplastic syndromes.
What happens during its diagnosis?
After identifying the signs and symptoms of leukemia, the doctors may suggest one or more diagnostic tests to determine the presence of the disease. The doctors first check the medical history of the patient to look for any significant pieces of evidence related to leukemia.In addition to the medical history, the doctors also conduct a physical exam to look for the signs of this disease. Other tests that usually follow during the diagnosis are blood tests, imaging tests, bone marrow biopsy, surgical lymph node biopsy and lumbar puncture. After the confirmation of leukemia, the doctors recommend suitable blood cancer treatment.
What are the treatments available for leukemia?
One of the most common treatment options used is chemotherapy. However, there are also many other types of treatments available which are discussed below:
- Watchful Waiting: People who do not experience any symptom of blood cancer are not treated right away and are monitored till the time symptoms begin to appear. This usually happens in cases of chronic lymphocytic leukemia.
- Chemotherapy: This treatment is used to kill cancer cells throughout the body using drugs.
- Radiation Therapy: In this type of treatment, cancer cells are destroyed using X-rays. Radiation therapy is also clubbed with chemotherapy or stem cell transplant in some cases.
- Targeted Therapy: This treatment aims at inhibiting a specific function of a cancer cell. Targeted therapy can stop the growth of the cancer cells instead of killing them.
- Stem Cell Transplant: The patient is first treated with high doses of chemo and radiation therapy to kill the cancer cells. After this, transplant stem cells are transferred through intravenous infusion. The transplant cells then produce new blood cells.
- Biologic Therapy: This treatment helps the immune system of the patient to recognize the cancer cells and then attack them.
- Surgery: Not used often, surgery is performed in chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) to remove the swollen spleen in the patient.
Why does the hair of patients undergoing chemotherapy fall out?
Hair thinning followed by hair loss is one of the most common side effects of chemotherapy. During chemotherapy, the drugs are used to destroy the rapidly dividing cells throughout the body. This process also affects the cells in the patient’s hair follicles, which causes hair loss.
Can leukemia also spread to the other parts of the body?
Yes, leukemia can spread to other parts of the body. The cancer cells can travel to other body parts such as lymph nodes, spleen, skin, and brain to cause various health complications.
What are the complications caused by leukemia?
Leukemia can cause various complications in the patient’s body, and one of the most common among them is the depletion of normal blood cells. Some other complications are weight loss and anemia.
Depending on the type of leukemia, patients can experience various other complications. For instance, people with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) can also develop other types of cancers and blood disorders. Other serious health complications include metabolic abnormalities, kidney failure, infertility, and cataract as well.
What are the ways that can help in reducing the risk of leukemia?
Currently, there is no clear clue about the causes of leukemia. However, there are some lifestyle habits that are identified as the risk factors for this disease and one can try and alter it to reduce the risk. For instance, smoking is related to this type of cancer so one can quit smoking. Quitting smoking can also decrease the risk of various other types of cancer-related to lung, head, neck, esophagus, stomach, and bladder among others.
The chemical elements such as Benzene can also be associated with causing leukemia. Hence, people can avoid its usage.
Is leukemia contagious?
No, leukemia or any other type of blood cancer is not contagious. There are times when people get conscious of the disease thinking that it may pass to a healthy person; however, this is just a myth. It is important that people should support cancer patients to help them pass the tough times through affection.