Understanding Leukaemia: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment
Leukaemia is a type of cancer that affects the blood and bone marrow, and is one of the most common forms of cancer in children. It is a serious medical condition that can have devastating consequences if not diagnosed and treated in a timely manner. Understanding leukaemia requires an understanding of its causes, symptoms, and treatments. Knowing what to look for and the options available can help those affected to take the necessary steps to seek treatment. It is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of leukaemia, as well as the causes and treatments available, in order to provide the best chance of a successful outcome. Knowing what to look for and the options available can help those affected to take the necessary steps to seek treatment.
What is leukaemia?
Leukaemia is a type of blood cancer that affects the blood and bone marrow. It occurs when abnormal blood cells develop and grow in the bone marrow, resulting in an increase in the number of abnormal blood cells in the blood and an increase in the risk of blood clots. This can lead to blood vessel damage and heart problems. Blood cells are produced in the bone marrow and then sent to different parts of the body, including the blood and other organs, to perform specific functions. Hematopoietic stem cells are responsible for producing blood cells in the bone marrow, such as red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. When leukaemia occurs, the body’s own hematopoietic stem cells develop incorrectly, producing too many immature blood cells and too few mature blood cells. This can lead to an imbalance in the body’s blood cell production and an increase in the risk of clotting and damage to blood vessels.
Causes of leukaemia
The causes of leukaemia are not fully understood, but research suggests several factors may increase your risk of developing the disease. Risk factors include having close family members who have leukaemia, being of Asian, African-American, or Indian descent, having certain viral infections early in life, and certain genetic mutations.
Symptoms of leukaemia
Symptoms of leukaemia vary depending on the type of the disease and where the cancer is located in the body. Most often, symptoms of leukaemia include abnormal bleeding, bruising, and/or a decrease in the number of blood cells in the body. The symptoms of leukaemia can also include pain or aching in the bones or muscles, a persistent headache, dizziness, weakness, loss of appetite, nausea and/or vomiting, a change in the colour of one’s urine, blood in the urine, or both, a decrease or loss of weight, a loss of interest in activities or school, an unexplained change in personality, or a feeling of constant fatigue.
Diagnosis of leukaemia
The symptoms of leukaemia may be similar to other conditions, such as anemia, infections, or other blood disorders. As with all blood diseases, your doctor may order blood tests to check for anemia and identify the cause of any symptoms, such as bleeding and/or clotting abnormalities. This type of blood test may also be used to determine if cancer is present. Bone marrow biopsy is an invasive procedure used to diagnose leukaemia. In this procedure, a small amount of bone marrow is removed through a needle placed in the hip or abdomen. The bone marrow sample is then examined under a microscope to detect the presence of leukaemia cells. Bone marrow biopsy may also be used to determine the effectiveness of chemotherapy treatment. If a person has leukaemia but the cancer is not affecting the bone marrow, the biopsy can be used to assess the effectiveness of chemotherapy treatment by determining how much of the cancer has been killed.
Treatment options for leukaemia
There is no cure for acute leukaemia and most people die within a few months of diagnosis if they do not receive treatment. However, with early diagnosis, people with leukaemia have a good chance of surviving longer with less damage to their bodies. There are three main types of treatment for leukaemia: chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and radiation therapy. Chemotherapy is given by mouth and delivered through a vein. It targets rapidly dividing cells, including cancer cells and cells in the bone marrow that produce blood cells. Immunotherapy is a type of treatment that uses medications to stimulate the body’s immune system to attack cancer cells. Common types of immunotherapy are:
The main goal in managing leukaemia is to control the amount of bleeding. In most cases, this is achieved by giving blood transfusions. If a person is not bleeding to death and there is no other sign of significant damage, a blood transfusion is usually safe. There are also several options for managing leukaemia that can help improve quality of life for people with the disease and help to prevent related side effects from treatment, such as: – Managing pain – Because leukaemia often causes pain, it is important to try to manage pain as much as possible. This can be done by taking pain medication, using ice packs to reduce pain, or by applying non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (which are better known as NSAIDs). – Managing symptoms – The symptoms of leukaemia can be difficult to manage and may change over time. It is important to talk regularly with your doctor about your symptoms and any changes that may be affecting your health. – Managing blood cells – Cells in the blood are important for many functions in the body, including the normal growth and development of cells and the production of red and white blood cells. – Managing blood counts – The number of red blood cells in the body and the number of platelets in the blood are important and can change over time. It is important to talk regularly with your doctor about these numbers. – Managing infection – Leukaemia can increase a person’s risk of an infection. In addition, people with leukaemia may develop certain infections, such as pneumonia or urinary tract infections, that were not present before the cancer was diagnosed. – Managing pain – Because leukaemia often causes pain, it is important to try to manage pain as much as possible. This can be done by taking pain medication, using ice packs to reduce pain, or by applying non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs (which are better known as NSAIDs).
Alternative treatments for leukaemia
There are several alternative and complementary treatments that have been shown to have some benefit in clinical trials but that are not yet generally accepted by health authorities as standard treatment options for people with leukaemia. These treatments include: – Intravenous immunoglobulin – IVIG is an intravenous infusion of antibodies that can help the immune system to attack cancer cells. It has been studied in clinical trials for people with acute and chronic lymphocytic leukemia and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. – Hyperbaric oxygen therapy – Hyperbaric oxygen therapy involves breathing 100% oxygen at higher than normal oxygen pressure levels, which has been shown to have some benefits in clinical trials. However, this treatment is not standard treatment for people with blood cell cancers such as leukaemia.
Support for leukaemia patients
People who are diagnosed with leukaemia require the support of family, friends, and medical professionals to help them manage the disease and its side effects. Support can come in many forms, including: – Emotional support – It is important for family and friends to provide emotional support to people with leukaemia and their loved ones. This can help to relieve some of the feelings of stress people experience from a serious illness. – Peer support – Peer support is provided by people who have experienced a similar situation and can provide guidance, strength, and advice to those who are newly diagnosed with cancer. – Support groups – There are many support groups that are organized by cancer patients, survivors, and their loved ones. These groups can provide support, information, and friendship for people who are newly diagnosed with blood cell cancers, as well as those who have survived these diseases.
Coping with leukaemia
There are many things that can help to reduce the emotional impact of being diagnosed with leukaemia, such as: – Knowing the signs and symptoms of the disease – It is crucial to know what signs and symptoms are present and what they mean so that you can take steps to seek treatment. – Talking openly with family and friends – It is important to talk openly with family and friends about their concerns and feelings so that they can provide