What is leukemia?
Leukemia is cancer of the blood cells. It starts in the bone marrow, the soft tissue inside most bones. Bone marrow is where blood cells are made.
When you have leukemia, the bone marrow starts to make a lot of abnormal white blood cells, called leukemia cells. They don't do the work of normal white blood cells. They grow faster than normal cells, and they don't stop growing when they should.
Over time, leukemia cells can crowd out the normal blood cells. This can lead to serious problems such as anemia, bleeding, and infections. Leukemia cells can also spread to the lymph nodes or other organs and cause swelling or pain.
Are there different types of leukemia?
There are several different types of leukemia. In general, leukemia is grouped by how fast it gets worse and what kind of white blood cell it affects.
The four main types of leukemia are:
What causes leukemia?
Experts don't know what causes leukemia. Some things may increase your risk, such as being exposed to large amounts of radiation and being exposed to certain chemicals at work, such as benzene.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms may depend on what type of leukemia you have, but common symptoms include:
How is leukemia diagnosed?
To find out if you have leukemia, a doctor will:
If your blood tests aren't normal, the doctor may want to do a bone marrow biopsy. This test lets the doctor look at cells from inside your bone. This can give key information about what type of leukemia it is so you can get the right treatment.
How is it treated?
What type of treatment you need will depend on many things, including what kind of leukemia you have, how far along it is, and your age and overall health.
Treatments for leukemia include:
Frequently Asked Questions
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