Leukemia 2 Leukemia In the last 40-50 years science has made remarkable research advancement in the study and treatment of many forms of cancer. One form of cancer that remains at a constant rate of diagnosis is leukemia. The medical world describes Leukemia as any one of over 100 forms of cancers that affect blood cells, but because there are so many forms doctors and researchers have been able to classify all of them into to four major groups. The four are as follows: Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), Acute myeloid leukemia (AML), Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML).
Researchers continue to do this in an attempt to answer the following questions: 1. What is Leukemia? 2. What are the causes of leukemia? 3. Who is at risk of developing leukemia? 4. What are the treatments for it? What is Leukemia? Leukemia, as stated, is any one of over 100 forms of cancer in the blood affecting red and white blood cells as well as the platelets.
More specifically leukemia is a disease that begins with the production of blood cells in the bone marrow. When the disease begins abnormal blood cells are released into the blood stream at a rate in which the body can no longer control.
These cancerous cells hinder many of the basic functions of the blood. Red blood cells are prevented from transporting valuable oxygen to all major organs in the body. Also at risk of abnormality are disease and infection fighting white cells, such as granulocytes, macrophages and lymphocytes. Platelets, which aid in blood clotting, can also be affected. The platelets help with clotting and prevent major blood loss, both internally and externally.
Leukemia 3 What causes Leukemia? It is unclear the exact cause of leukemia as a whole, but studies have been able to show links between leukemia and environmental factors surrounding most patients.
Like many forms of cancer, researchers link about 20% of all known cases of leukemia to smoking. There are also higher incidences of occurrence affecting patients who have had exposure to high doses of radiation.
Past and present research shows that survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings showed an increased mortality rate. Nuclear disaster survivors, such as those in Chernobyl, also showed higher incidences of leukemia. There is also evidence that some patients treated for other forms of cancer with certain chemotherapy drugs.
There are factors that commonly concern people as risk factors. The American Cancer Society has listed some factors that have been unproven as a cause of leukemia. Some of these include Pesticides and non-ionizing radiation, such as that given of by radio waves, microwaves, and radar. Other unproven factors included toxic waste and nuclear power plants. (http://www.cancer.org/eprise/main/docroot/PED/content/PED_1_3X_Unproven_Risks?sitearea=PED) Who is at risk of developing leukemia? Cancer is traditionally thought of as a disease that plagues people as they age. According to an article published by MSN health each year, nearly 27,000 adults and more than 2,000 children in the United States learn that they have leukemia. The four main groups help to clarify exactly who is at risk of leukemia.
Leukemia 4 According to the National Cancer Institute, Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) is the most common form of leukemia found in children. Although is primarily found in children it is also a common form found in adults above the age of 65. Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) occurs in both adults and children. This type of leukemia is sometimes called acute nonlymphocytic leukemia (ANLL). Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) most often affects adults over the age of 55. It sometimes occurs in younger adults, but it almost never affects children. Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) occurs mainly in adults. A very small number of children also develop this disease. (http://stage.cancer.gov/templates/doc_wyntk.aspx?viewid= 57b3abc6-4b52-41b0-8762-9372062313de#2 Research by the Institute has shown that leukemia is occurs most often in people of white nationality and least often in East Asian nationalities. They have also stated that the male gender, in all nationalities except Vietnamese, are about two times more likely than women to develop leukemia.
What are the treatments for it? Treatments for leukemia vary depending on the stage of advancement that the disease has reached, the type of leukemia being treated, and the side effects treatment will have on the patient.
Some of the options included chemotherapy, radiation, and bone marrow transplants (BMT).
Leukemia 5 The Leukemia-Lymphoma Society defines chemotherapy as the use of drugs or chemicals, often in combinations, to kill or damage cancer cells in the body. Several of these anti-cancer agents have been developed since their creation in the 1950's. (http://www.leukemia-lymphoma.org/all_mat_detail.adp) Some of the more recent drugs created for treatments are called monoclonal agents. An example of these is Rituxan, whose manufacturer Genentech states that monoclonal antibodies are laboratory-engineered substances that recognize and bind onto a protein on the surface of a cell. After binding to the targeted site, the monoclonal antibody can block the growth of the tumor and/or recruit the body's immune system to attack the target, and can also sensitize a cancer cell to chemotherapy. (http://www.gene.com/gene/products/education/oncology/) Radiation therapy is addressed by the LLS as a treatment that involves giving the patient gamma rays or x-rays to specific body parts to change the body tissues. Radiation therapy may also be useful to control symptoms when local cancer growths cause pain as a result of pressure on bone or nerve, or when the function of vital organs such as the bowel, or respiratory system are involved. The goal of radiation therapy in the case of blood-related cancers is to destroy the cancer tissue under treatment.
BMT or bone marrow transplant is a procedure in which a donor has marrow removed from the area surrounding the iliac crest. The cells are then transplanted into the patient to increase the amount of natural blood cells in the body. This method is commonly done with patients undergoing extreme amounts of chemotherapy or radiation.
Leukemia 6 Leukemia is not a heavily publicized form of cancer, nor is it one of the most common. It does, however, deserve as much attention as other more common forms. The public also should be aware of the risks and rates of occurrence.