Leukemia is a disease that affects blood forming tissues, mainly bone marrow. Leukemia also affects the lymph glands and spleen. Leukemia causes the body to produce an extreme amount of abnormal white blood cells. This causes infections because the abnormal cells cannot stop infections like the normal cells do. Leukemia also causes anemia. Anemia is a disease in which the body makes less blood cells. This happens because the leukemic cells crowd the system. Leukemia also causes excessive bleeding. This happens because the amount of platelets will decrease and clotting will not occur. Researchers think a change in genetic structure causes leukemia. Changes in gene structure could be caused by environmental problems. Some of these problems could be: birth defects, radiation, viruses, and chemicals.
Leukemia is not inherited and is not contagious. There are two major types of Leukemia, Lymphocytic and Granulocytic. In Lymphocytic Leukemia white blood cells known as Lymphocytes, that are made in the Lymph glands and bone marrow are abnormal or immature. In Granulocytic Leukemia this causes an increase in white blood cells known as granulocytes. Granulocytes are made in the bone marrow, and other tissue. Granulocytes that are affected by leukemia cannot fight of infections. There are two ways in which leukemia can occur. One is acute, and the other is chronic. Acute leukemia is found most in children. It progresses rapidly. Acute leukemia causes red blood cells to decrease, the cells are then replaced by abnormal ones. This causes anemia. Life expectancy is short without proper treatment.
Chronic leukemia is most common in adults. It progresses slowly. Chronic leukemia is less severe than acute. Leukemia has many symptoms. These symptoms include: bruising easily, constant fever, swollen lymph glands, enlarged abdomen(from enlarged liver or spleen), no appetite, weight loss, body pain, excessive bleeding, and infections. The cure rate of leukemia is up to 70%. This is due to years of study, and treatment. The first leukemia treatment was introduced in the 1940s. Chemotherapy is one of the main treatments used today to fight leukemia. Chemotherapy is given in one of four ways: intravenously, intramuscularly, orally, or a spinal tap. Chemotherapy uses a combination of about thirty drugs.
These drugs kill abnormal cells, or make them so they cant reproduce. Bone marrow transplants are another form of treatment. The bone marrow is taken from a healthy person, and then it is injected into the patients bloodstream. If no donors are available the patient can use his own bone marrow after the leukemic cells are removed. Antibiotics are given to get rid of the symptoms of the disease. By the year 2000 it is expected that 1 in 1000 adults will be a survivor of childhood leukemia.