Leukemia is a cancer of the blood cells. In cancer, cells become abnormal and grow out of control. As the number of abnormal blood cells increase, the healthy blood cells are outnumbered. There are three main types of blood cells. Each has a distinct job:
White blood cells (WBC), also called lymphocytes, are most often involved in leukemia. Their main job is to help the immune system.
Red blood cells (RBC) carry oxygen throughout the body.
Platelets help the blood clot at injury sites.
Leukemia cells can not do the job of normal blood cells. This causes many of the
symptoms of leukemia
. The disease starts in the bone marrow where blood cells are made. The most common types of leukemia are:
If you have any of these symptoms, do not assume it is due to leukemia. They can also vary depending on the type of leukemia and where the cancer cells are located. Tell your doctor if you have any of these:
—targeted therapy similar to imatinib, if leukemia cells become resistant to imatinib
These drugs can cause infertility and early
. Talk to your doctor about your fertility options before you start treatment.
Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. It may be given in many forms including pill, injection, and via a catheter. The drugs enter the bloodstream and travel through the body killing mostly cancer cells. Some healthy cells are killed as well. The specific combination of drugs will depend on the type of leukemia, your age, and condition.
Radiation therapy is a type of treatment that uses radiation to kill cancer cells. Typically, it is only used to prepare for a bone marrow transplant or in some cases of chronic leukemia.
—Healthy blood cells from a donor are given through an intravenous line (IV). This may be done if the leukemia is causing shortness of breath, fatigue, or severe bleeding.
Bone marrow transplant
—Stem cells from a donor’s healthy bone marrow are injected in you. Stem cells can make all types of blood cells. Once injected into your bloodstream, the stem cells should make healthy blood cells.
—The spleen may need to be removed if it becomes congested with leukemia cells.
Biological Therapy (Immunotherapy)
The therapy uses medications or substances made by the body to improve your body’s defense against cancer. This type of treatment is still fairly new and under investigation. Talk with you doctor about whether this treatment is an option for you and about clinical trials in your area.
To help reduce your chance of getting leukemia, take the following steps:
Avoid exposure to benzene.
Avoid exposure to high levels of radiation when possible.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care
provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a
substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the
advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to
starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a