The word leukemia comes from the word leukocyte which refers to ‘white blood cells’, it refers to the characteristic high white blood cell count that is present in most suffering patients before treatment. The excessive number of white blood cells is visible under a light microscope, and it interferes with the amount of nutrition and other functions of the other cells. Moreover these excessive amounts of WBCs are not totally functionally healthy. Also there are some leukemia patients who do not have high WBC counts during a blood cell test, such condition is very rare and is called aleukemia. This unusual disorder is seen in hairy cell leukemia.
The commonest type of leukemia which affects the young children, which also affects older people is acute lymphoblastic leukemia. It is generally treated by chemotherapy along with radiotherapy. Chronic lymphocytic leukemia is the type of cancer affecting only old age people and young adults but never children. Hairy cell leukemia has this aleukemia condition in some cases.
Leukemia treatment in India has been slowly getting more affordable and many eminent personalities are funding free or low cost hospitals for this disease. It is seen that leukemia affects almost thirty percent more men than women. The cause of this variation of frequency on the basis of sex is not yet found out. Almost one third of the children affected by leukemia have acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Some other types include adult T-cell leukemia, large granular lymphocytic leukemia, T-cell prolymphocytic leukemia and clonal eosinophilias.
Leukemia is caused by certain mutation in the genetic composition of the cells, in these cases blood cells especially the white blood cells. The change in the genetic composition may be triggered by activation of oncogenes by certain chemicals, carcinogenic substances, viruses or radiations. The chemicals used in petroleum like benzene and other multi benzene ring containing organic compounds and hair dyes are related to the causing leukemia. In certain cases a newborn acquires leukemia because his or her mother was suffering from leukemia at the time of pregnancy. Individuals with Down syndrome have specific chromosomal changes that lead to a higher risk. Also, the exposure to rays and electromagnetic energy leads to leukemia. People who ha. Smokers are at a higher risk of leukemia. Some viruses such as human T-lymphotropic virus is been said to cause adult T-cell leukemia.
The symptoms of leukemia in children include bruising easily, very pale ashy skin, frequent fever and enlargement of spleen or liver. Symptoms of leukemia coincide with the symptoms of a compromised immune system. Due to the presence of defective white blood cells, the proper ones are suppressed and a patient will have frequent infections. It can also start attacking the other healthy cells of the body leading to auto-immune disorders. Tonsils, sores in oral cavity, common cold, fever and other opportunistic infections are common. Finally, the red blood cell deficiency leads to anemia. In advanced stages, the patient may have to encounter bad stomach aches and headaches due to the spread of cancer in abdominal region and in the central nervous system.
The treatment options include chemotherapy, blood cell replacement, and stem cell therapy. Some types like the hairy cell leukemia are incurable, but can be controlled.