Blood Cancer (Leukemia) - Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment
Blood cancer, also known as leukemia in the colloquial language, is a type of cancer that means the stem cells, which are a spongy tissue that provides the formation of blood cells in the human body and which are used for blood production in the bone marrow in the bones, start or stop forming more than necessary. When leukemia starts, it first damages the bone marrow and then all the organs.
After the blood production and lymphatic system, which are essential for the human body, are damaged by leukemia, a constantly progressing path is followed if blood cancer is not treated. There are two types of progression of leukemia. One of them is the chronic and slow-progressing type, caused by an uncontrolled increase in mature white blood cells. The other is the acute and rapidly progressing type, caused by uncontrolled growth in immature white blood cells. Due to the rapid course of the second type, the patient begins to show symptoms within 1 or 2 months after it starts to occur. Therefore, the second type of disease can be recognized more quickly, and treatment can be started. The cause of blood cancer is not yet known precisely. But according to clinical studies, radiation, pesticides, and some chemicals can cause leukemia.
What Are the Types of Leukemia?
Leukemia has two different types. These are acute leukemia and chronic leukemia.
Acute leukemia is a type of leukemia that occurs suddenly and progresses very rapidly and is divided into acute lymphoblastic leukemia and acute myeloblastic leukemia. On the other hand, chronic leukemia is a slower progressive type divided into chronic lymphocytic and chronic myeloid leukemia.
What is Acute Leukemia?
Between 15% and 20% of blood cancer, patients have acute leukemia. Acute leukemia, a rapidly progressive type, is much more likely to be seen in pediatric patients. Although it can be seen at any age, it is more common in older ages, except in children. Acute leukemia, which occurs due to the uncontrolled proliferation of cells that produce blood cells, may occur in the early stages due to its sudden emergence and rapid progression. The disease, which first appears in the bone marrow, can spread to the whole body later. Moreover, since leukocytes from blood cells cannot be produced in this disease, even the slightest infections can put the patient in bad condition. Again, since there is no production of thrombocytes, one of the blood cells, which enables the blood to clot, bleeding on the skin or internal organs may occur. Acute leukemia patients notice anemia in themselves as the first and most significant symptom. Acute leukemia is divided into two. These;
Acute Myeloblastic Leukemia occurs due to the uncontrolled proliferation of blasts with myelocytic origin and failure to fulfill their duties. This type, primarily seen in patients in their 20s, is also very common in adults.
Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia occurs due to the uncontrolled proliferation of primitive and lymphoid origin blasts and failure to fulfill their duties. The vast majority of pediatric patients have this type. In adults, it is found at a rate of 20%.
Although both are very rapidly types, it is essential to start blood cancer treatment with early diagnosis.
What is Chronic Leukemia?
Chronic leukemia, a type of leukemia that progresses slowly, and the symptoms are noticed later, occurs due to the failure of old white blood cells to fulfill their duties. There are two types of chronic leukemia. These;
Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia occurs due to the uncontrolled proliferation of white blood cells, which originate from lymphoid and protect the body against infections and fail to fulfill their duties. Cells in chronic lymphocyte leukemia settle in the lymph nodes, bone marrow, and blood, causing swelling in the lymph nodes. Although it is mainly seen in patients aged 60 and over, it constitutes 30% of leukemia. A genetic test is performed to diagnose this disease. Although the treatment was quite tricky in the past, blood cancer treatment is quite simple today.
Chronic Myeloid Leukemia, which is caused by the uncontrolled proliferation of cells of myeloid origin, is most common between the ages of 25 and 60.
Why Does Leukemia Occur?
Although the exact cause of leukemia is not known today, many studies are being conducted. According to studies, genetic factors, environmental factors, immunological factors, and viral factors influence the disease. To go into detail:
- Reception of chemotherapy drugs
- Some genetic diseases
- Radiation exposure
- Overexposure to formaldehyde and similar drugs
- Air pollution
- Overexposure to technological gadgets
- Rotten food consumption
- Food additives
- Overexposure to chemicals
Although these factors are not certain, they have been determined according to studies, and there is no evidence that they can cause it in every patient.
What are the Symptoms of Leukemia Disease?
The symptoms of leukemia can be similar to the symptoms of many other diseases. Although it occurs in the marrow at first, it can show similar symptoms to diseases such as infectious diseases, rheumatic diseases, lymphoma, hemorrhagic diseases, myeloma as it spreads to the whole body. Due to anemia in leukemia; Symptoms such as fatigue, pallor, fatigue, and shortness of breath are common. In addition, because the immune system is weakened, bleeding and bruising may occur in the nose, under the skin, and on the gums. In acute leukemia, a type of leukemia, there may be loss of appetite, weakness, rapid weight loss, pallor, fever, bone pain, unexpected bleeding under the skin and gums.
What are the Symptoms of Leukemia in Pediatric Patients?
Leukemia, which is frequently seen between 2 and 10, constitutes 30% of pediatric patients. The most common symptoms in pediatric patients; loss of appetite, rapid weight loss, swelling in the abdomen, pallor, joint pains, bruises in the body for no reason, and a long-lasting fever.
How Is Leukemia Diagnosed?
Early diagnosis is essential in cancer types. Likewise, in leukemia, the percentage of recovery increases with early diagnosis and early blood cancer treatment. Since there are severe symptoms of bleeding in leukemia, which occurs as a result of uncontrolled growth of blood cells, blood and bone marrow samples are taken and examined. In addition, the diagnosis can be made at earlier stages by blood count and microscopic examination. However, the definitive diagnosis of leukemia is a bone marrow biopsy. For the diagnosis of leukemia, the oncologist must first listen carefully to the patient's history. Then, the necessary diagnostic methods should be done in order. These;
In the physical examination of the patient who came with the suspicion of leukemia; The lymph nodes, liver, and organs such as the spleen are manually checked for enlargement. Also, due to anemia, the patient's color pallor is checked.
The patient's blood count, biochemical values, liver function tests, coagulation values are checked.
Bone Marrow Biopsy
Bone marrow taken from the hip bone is a liquid sample. This sample is carefully examined on glass and is very effective in making a diagnosis.
Blood samples and bone marrow are examined for genetic factors.
How Is Leukemia Treated?
The type of blood cancer is determined by the blood count test for the treatment of blood cancer. Diagnosis is made according to the blast value in the blood. Then, the extent of the disease is determined by bone marrow biopsy, and in this way, the subtype of the disease is determined. Identification of these species is essential for treatment. Treatment methods in leukemia;
When it comes to cancer treatments, the first resort is chemotherapy. Thanks to chemotherapy, harmful cells that cause disease are eliminated. Depending on the type of blood cancer, the kind of chemotherapy also varies.
Radiotherapy is the treatment method that prevents the removal and growth of harmful cells in the body with high-energy lights. Radiotherapy can be applied to a single area or the whole body, depending on the disease.
Immune system stimulating drugs are used to enable the immune system to recognize harmful cells. Thanks to these drugs, malicious cells are identified more quickly, and their removal from the body is accelerated.
The most common treatment method for blood cancer patients is bone marrow transplantation. For this transplant, marrow taken from family members or donors who have tissue compatibility with the patient is transplanted. This method is as tricky as it is effective. First, the patient's bone marrow is destroyed by heavy chemotherapy and radiotherapy. After this process, the transfer process takes place. No matter how effective it is, there may be side effects such as nausea, headache, pain, drop in blood pressure, fever, chills, and shortness of breath in the person who will have a bone marrow transplant. In addition, the patient's age and general health status are also taken into account for transplantation.
Blood cancer treatment, oncologist, and hematology specialist work together. In addition to the above treatments, drugs are also used to support treatment. Chemotherapy treatment; makes the patient's body open to external infections and diseases. Therefore, treatments such as antibiotic drugs and blood product transfusion are also performed in addition to treatment. In addition, anti-nausea medications can also be prescribed by the physician.
Leukemia is a complex disease of many types. Therefore, early diagnosis is essential for treatment. The earlier the disease is diagnosed, the more influential the treatment.
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