Doctor's Notes on Leukemia
Leukemia is a general term for cancers (abnormal cells that multiply) of blood-forming immature cell types in the bone marrow that can spread into the blood and organs. Like many other diseases, the signs and symptoms of leukemias are non-specific and include
- unexplained fevers,
- frequent infections,
- easy bruising or bleeding,
- weight loss, and
- night sweats.
When leukemia cells aggregate in one or more organs, they may produce signs and symptoms like
- balance problems,
- muscle control loss,
- blurry vision,
- swelling or nodules in the neck, armpits, and/or groin,
- shortness of breath,
- nausea and vomiting,
- bone and joint pains, and
- swelling and pain in the abdomen or testicles.
The exact cause of leukemia is not known. Associated risk factors for development include toxic exposures (like benzene), radiation exposure, smoking, previous chemotherapy, human T-cell leukemia virus, myelodysplastic syndromes (blood cell abnormalities), genetics (abnormal genes and Down syndrome), and family history.
What Are the Treatments for Leukemia?
The common treatment options for leukemia include the following:
- Chemotherapy: oral and IV drugs used to kill leukemia cells
- Targeted therapy: drugs that attack leukemia cells in areas unique to the type of these cancer cells
- Radiation therapy: X-rays or other high-energy beams that can stop leukemia cells from growing and/or may kill the cells
- Bone marrow (stem cell) transplant: replacing leukemic bone marrow cells with transplanted healthy bone marrow cells
- Immunotherapy: drugs that enhance your immune system to recognize and fight leukemic cancer cells
- Engineered immune cells: your T cells extracted and transformed to recognize a receptor (antigen) unique to certain leukemia types and infused back into your body to target leukemia cells
- Clinical trials: experimental treatments to control and/or kill leukemic cells usually arranged by your cancer doctors
Treatments for leukemia is individualized. Your doctors determine your options for treatments based on many factors including age, leukemia type, where it has spread in your body along with any other health issues.
Must Read Articles:
AnemiaAnemia can be caused by many conditions and diseases such as iron deficiency, poor diet and nutrition, cancers, bone marrow problems, and more. Symptoms of anemia depend upon the cause, and progression of the disease. Treatment depends upon the cause of anemia.
Bone Marrow BiopsyA bone marrow biopsy is performed for any of the following reasons: to evaluate bone marrow function or to determine the cause of some infections; diagnose tumors; determine how far a disease, such as lymphoma, has progressed; and to evaluate the effectiveness of chemotherapy or other bone marrow active drugs.
ChemotherapyChemotherapy or "chemo" is a treatment for cancer. Depending on the type of cancer an individual has, it can cure cancer, control cancer. or ease cancer symptoms. There are a variety of cancer drugs. There are a number of support groups to assist chemotherapy patients gain the help they need to move through this very trying treatment.
Chest X-RayChest X-ray is a common procedure ordered to diagnose certain diseases and conditions such as pneumonia, congestive heart failure, emphysema, lung masses or nodules, tuberculosis, pleurisy, fractures, aortic aneurysms, or enlarged heart. Chest X-ray is a non-invasive and safe diagnostic procedure.
Down SyndromeDown syndrome is a genetic disorder that is caused by an extra chromosome 21. Down syndrome is also referred to as Trisomy 21. Other variations of Down syndrome include Robertsonian translocation and partial/segmental trisomy, and mosaic Down syndrome. There is no treatment for Down syndrome.
Night Sweats (in Men and Women)Night sweats refer to excess sweating occurring during the night. Causes include menopause, infections such as TB, appendicitis and diverticulitis, cancer; medications like aspirin, other NSAIDs, and antidepressants, diabetes, low testosterone, and hormone disorders. Depending on the cause, in addition to sweating at night, symptoms may include flushing, fever, or chills. Treatment depends on the underlying cause.
Smoking (Cigarette)Cigarette smoking remains the leading cause of death and illness among Americans. Effects of smoking can cause cancers, emphysema, bronchitis, COPD, chronic cough, and more. Smoking cessation includes nicotine replacement therapy and behavioral therapy.
Spinal Tap ProcedureA spinal tap is a procedure performed when a doctor needs to look at the cerebrospinal fluid (also known as spinal fluid). Spinal tap is also referred to as a lumbar puncture. Spinal tap risks include headache, herniation, bleeding, and an epidermoid cyst.
Weight LossObesity is simply the accumulation of excess body fat. It is much more than that, however. Obesity is a chronic (long-term) disease that is very difficult to treat. It takes 3,500 extra calories to gain 1 pound. To lose weight, you must eat 3,500 calories less than you need, say, 500 fewer calories per day for one week, to lose 1 pound.
Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.