Leukemia or blood cancer is a relatively rare type of cancer, but its effects can be very dangerous and life-threatening. However, leukemia can be cured with timely treatment nowadays.
What is leukemia, blood cancer?
A doctor’s visit should be made if the diffuse feeling of illness persists. If you experience persistent tiredness, physical weakness after carrying out normal errands or an increased need for sleep, you should consult a doctor. See AbbreviationFinder for abbreviations related to Leukemia.
Leukemia or blood cancer is a life-threatening disease that can quickly lead to death if not treated by a specialist. The insidious thing about the disease is that in the early stages there are no symptoms of blood cancer. The course of the disease without symptoms can extend over several years in chronic leukemia.
The patient feels healthy and does not realize what a dangerous disease he carries. The classification of blood cancer into different forms results from the morphological and immunological properties. There are different forms of leukemia: acute myeloid leukemia (AML), acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), chronic myeloid leukemia (CML).
Myeloid leukemias start from the progenitor cells. Rare forms of blood cancer are polycythemia vera (PV) and essential thrombocythemia (ET). In polycythemia vera (PV), the proliferation of erythrocytes in the blood is paramount and other cell lines are also affected. Essential thrombocythemia, on the other hand, is exclusively a platelet cancer.
The causes of blood cancer or leukemia have not yet been finally clarified. Especially in acute forms of this disease, it is difficult to find the cause. Under no circumstances should the disease be associated with pathogenic facts. Rather, there are potentially triggering factors.
For example, all kinds of chemicals. Or a previous treatment with cytostatics. A particular danger is ionizing radiation and viruses of the most diverse origins. In addition, the family genetic predisposition represents an increased risk of developing blood cancer. The knowledge that radioactive radiation is a trigger for leukemia is certain.
This can be a short-term high load, such as a nuclear disaster, or a longer-term low load, such as the radiation from a nuclear reprocessing plant. But there are also other factors that should not be underestimated that can lead to the development of blood cancer. Above all, smoking and too much negative stress are to be mentioned here.
The disease itself is not linked to any age, even children are not spared. Every year up to 600 children contract this disease, the causes are largely unknown. There are current studies by the children’s cancer register in Mainz, which have found that Down’s disease promotes the development of blood cancer. A low risk arises from ionizing and non-ionizing radiation. Negative factors are excess birth weight and infertility treatment before pregnancy.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
Leukemia manifests itself in the initial phase with very unspecific symptoms such as tiredness, reduced performance, striking pale skin and exhaustion. Other signs may include dizziness, heavy night sweats and headaches. Frequent bleeding from the gums or nose, small skin bleeds (petechiae) or an increased tendency to bruises suggest an increased tendency to bleed, which together with a disturbance of the general condition can indicate leukemia.
Other warning signs include a persistent increase in body temperature with no apparent cause, enlarged lymph nodes, and weight loss. Due to the disturbed immune system, infections occur more frequently, and many of those affected complain of shortness of breath that sets in even with little exertion. Swollen lymph nodes can be felt, especially in the neck, groin and armpits. As the disease progresses, the spleen and liver are usually enlarged.
Bone pain and unclear skin rashes also occasionally occur in the context of leukemia. In addition to headaches, involvement of the meninges can also result in visual disturbances, increased sensitivity to light, nausea and vomiting. While the symptoms of acute leukemia deteriorate rapidly, they can remain constant for a long time in the chronic forms of the disease. Chronic leukemia often causes no symptoms in the early stages and is only discovered by chance during a blood test.
- loss of appetite
- shortness of breath
- constantly tired
- pale skin
- punctiform, small bleeding under the skin
- Weight loss for no apparent reason
- slight, persistent fever, although there is no infection
- bone pain
- Sweats, mostly at night
- frequent infections, i.e. weakened immune system
- swollen lymph nodes, for example under the armpits and groin
course of the disease
The course of leukemia is such that numerous leukemia cells in the blood can be detected by a blood test at the doctor’s. There are also physical symptoms, such as tiredness and physical exhaustion. Once the disease is diagnosed, it is important to have regular blood and bone marrow tests to determine how many leukemia cells are multiplying.
In everyday life, the patient often notices a constant drop in performance and a tendency to bleed or stubborn infections. Disturbed organ functions can cause additional symptoms. In order to alleviate the effects and side effects of the disease, regular check-ups with a specialist are very important. The sooner the patient decides to start treatment, the greater the chances of recovery.
Leukemia can cause various complications. This risk is particularly high if the immune system is severely weakened. Because of this, patients are extremely susceptible to infections, which is true of all forms of blood cancer. One of the most common consequences of leukemia is anemia.
This is due to the fact that the red blood cells are literally overrun by the white blood cells. The anemia is noticeable through a pronounced chronic tiredness and lack of drive. This condition can be exacerbated by the drugs that are administered to treat blood cancer.
Another typical complication is prolonged bleeding. Wounds that develop due to leukemia are closed more slowly. Occasionally, the resulting blood loss is so intense that the patient faints. Even a blood transfusion may be required. Heavy bleeding also includes nosebleeds and bleeding gums. It is not uncommon for hematomas (bruising) to appear.
Pain is also not a rare consequence of leukemia. This is how the bone marrow expands inside the bones. In severe cases, those affected are restricted in their movements. Enlargement or swelling of the kidneys is also one of the consequences.
If the B cells lose their ability to function due to blood cancer, there is a risk of frequent infections. Some of these are so serious that they put a great strain on the patient. Without appropriate treatment or its positive course, leukemia has a fatal outcome.
When should you go to the doctor?
A doctor’s visit should be made if the diffuse feeling of illness persists. If you experience persistent tiredness, physical weakness after carrying out normal errands or an increased need for sleep, you should consult a doctor. If the person concerned suffers from shortness of breath during minor exertion or activities, the abnormality must be clarified by a doctor. A loss of the usual level of performance, fatigue and fatigue are indicators that should be investigated. A doctor is needed if you have a headache, changes in the skin’s appearance, itching or a frequent tendency to bleed. Repeated bleeding from the nose or gums indicate medical conditions that require treatment. Enlarged lymph, an increased susceptibility to infection or swelling on the body should be presented to a doctor.
If you feel tight and have difficulty breathing, you should consult a doctor. If you experience bone pain, a rash, changes in vision, or sudden sensitivity to light, you should see a doctor. Nausea, vomiting and general malaise should also be evaluated and treated. If an unwanted weight loss occurs, this is to be understood as a warning from the organism. A doctor should be consulted so that the cause of the weight loss can be determined. Night sweats despite optimal sleeping conditions indicate an existing irregularity. If the symptoms persist for several weeks, a doctor’s visit is advisable.
Treatment & Therapy
The therapy and treatment of leukemia is carried out with cystostatics. Additional treatment options are high-dose therapies with autologous stem cell infusion. Then there is the possibility of bone marrow transplantation. Prophylactic and therapeutic radiation therapy is of secondary importance. In recent years, new ways of administering antibodies have emerged.
There are also new drugs against blood cancer that intervene directly in the course of the disease, such as Imatineb. The aim of the treatment is to push back the cancer cells and, if possible, to destroy them completely. Depending on the type and spread of the leukemia, it is necessary to draw up an individual treatment and therapy plan with the doctor. Because blood cancer spreads to all organs, it is not possible to remove it through surgery.
Therefore, chemotherapy is carried out with cystostatic drugs that inhibit cell growth. In some cases, radiation is also necessary. In order to achieve the best possible effect, it is possible to combine different cystostatics. Myeloid leukemia is treated first with induction therapy and then with consolidation therapy, which should last at least a year to avoid recurrence.
Outlook & Forecast
The chances of survival for many patients with leukemia are significantly better today than they were many years ago. Thanks to modern therapy options, the chances of recovery can be improved more and more. However, if the leukemia has progressed too far, appropriate treatments can at least help alleviate the symptoms and prolong life a little.
However, the prognosis for leukemia always depends on various factors and differs from patient to patient. First of all, the type and stage of the cancer at the time of diagnosis play a decisive role. The patient’s response to the therapy is also important. In addition, the age and general condition of the patient and possible concomitant diseases also influence the chances of recovery and life expectancy.
Acute leukemia is basically curable. The chances of recovery are greater the earlier the disease is diagnosed and treated. This is especially true for young patients. In the absence of treatment, patients die from acute treatment about three months after diagnosis. With treatment, life expectancy for acute lymphocytic leukemia can be increased to about five years.
Even pushing back the cancer is no guarantee for a complete cure. It is possible for a recurrence to occur months and even years later. The earlier the relapse occurs, the lower the chances of recovery. If chronic leukemia is diagnosed, the cancer cells multiply much more slowly. In this case, the treatment is not as intensive as in acute cases, but it is necessary in the long term. There is no cure for chronic leukemia, but treatment can relieve the symptoms and slow the progression of the disease.
Without treatment, your health will deteriorate. Depending on age and the type of leukemia, death can ultimately follow. Aftercare is primarily aimed at reducing the symptoms. Regular examinations by the doctor treating you are necessary to ensure that medication is administered appropriately and to initiate a changeover in the event of intolerance. Furthermore
The two forms of chronic leukemia, acute and chronic, harbor a different risk potential. In the acute form, deterioration of the condition occurs immediately, in the chronic form more gradually. Follow-up care is intensive or less intensive depending on the course of the disease. Since leukemia patients have poor wound healing, they should take care in their everyday life not to injure themselves. Rest and plenty of sleep also promote general well-being, as does a balanced diet.
You can do that yourself
Leukemia is a serious disease and must be treated by a doctor. However, the patient can also do something for his healing after consultation with the doctor treating him.
This includes taking supplements such as vitamins and minerals that can strengthen the body. Alternative healing methods should only be considered if the treating physician has been consulted beforehand. In addition to the physical ailments, there are often also mental ailments. When leukemia occurs, the social environment of the patient is very important. The support that the patient receives from family, partner and friends contributes significantly to the healing of the mental complaints. Treatment by a psycho-oncologist can also serve as professional support for the patient.
Self-help groups on the topic of leukemia can also be very helpful for the patient. The exchange with other affected people can have a relieving effect on the patient. In addition, those affected can exchange information about the therapy and the living conditions and thus provide mutual support. In this way, those affected can benefit from the experiences of others and they get the feeling that they are not alone with their problems in relation to the disease.