Leukemia is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow in which abnormal leukemic white blood cells are produced and crowd out normal blood cells.
Treatment of leukemia varies depending on the type and subtype of the disease, as well as individual factors such as age, general health, and response to previous treatments.
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Different forms of leukemia
Leukemias are generally divided into acute and chronic forms, depending on how quickly the disease progresses.
In acute leukemia, cancer cells multiply rapidly and symptoms appear early. In chronic leukemia, however, malignant cells tend to multiply more slowly, although they accumulate in greater numbers.
Lymphocytic leukemia is a type of leukemia that affects white blood cells called lymphocytes. Lymphocytes are part of the immune system and help fight infections.
There are two main types of lymphocytic leukemia:
- Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL): This is the form in which the disease progresses rapidly and complications quickly become dangerous. It is most common in children.
- Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL): This is a slow-growing type of leukemia that occurs most often in adults. This form of the disease can sometimes go undetected for several years.
Myeloid leukemia is a form of blood cancer that affects the myeloid blood cells in the bone marrow. Myeloid cells are a type of white blood cell that helps fight infection.
There are two types of myeloid leukemia:
- Acute myeloid leukemia (AML).
- Chronic myeloid (myelocytic or granular) leukemia (CML).
Leukemia is divided into several types depending on the forms of the disease. It can be classified according to its evolution and speed of progression (chronic or acute). Or depending on the origin of the disease, that is to say, the cells of the bone marrow where it develops (lymphoid or myeloid).
Symptoms of Leukemia
In the early stages of chronic leukemia, there may be no symptoms at all because the leukemia cells do not interfere with the functions of other cells. In acute leukemia, on the other hand, symptoms appear quickly and can progress very rapidly.
Leukemia cells, like other blood cells, circulate throughout the body. Depending on their number and location, leukemia symptoms can vary.
Symptoms may include:
- Fever and headache.
- Night sweats.
- Fatigue and weakness.
- Bone and joint pain.
- Weight loss and paleness.
- Increased susceptibility to infection.
- Easy bleeding.
- Enlarged spleen.
- Swollen lymph nodes.
Not all of these symptoms are sure signs of leukemia because they can be associated with many other diseases. It is therefore necessary to contact your doctor to find out more about the nature of any disorders.
Diagnosis of Leukemia
Diagnosing leukemia requires a thorough medical evaluation by a hematologist. The first step in this evaluation is to look for any enlargement of the lymph nodes, liver, or spleen. This is followed by a series of tests, including a complete blood count and a bone marrow sample, which are essential to make an accurate diagnosis and guide the choice of treatment.
At the same time, radiologic studies and a lumbar puncture of the cerebrospinal fluid may be ordered to rule out or confirm the involvement of other organs in the leukemic process.
Blood tests, including a complete blood count and indicators of liver and kidney function, provide valuable information. In leukemia, white blood cell, red blood cell, and platelet counts are often altered relative to established norms.
This diagnostic process allows cancer cells to be distinguished from normal blood cells, contributing to accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
Leukemia Treatment in Türkiye
Leukemia treatment in Türkiye is a very delicate process aimed at eradicating leukemia cells without affecting healthy cells. The choice of the appropriate treatment depends on several factors, including the patient's age, the stage of the cancer, and the patient's health.
The main leukemia treatments in Turkey include:
This treatment aims to inject chemicals into the patient's body so that they destroy leukemia cells and allow healthy cells to be produced. The use of different anticancer drugs is required. Two types of chemotherapy are used:
- Intensive chemotherapy.
- Non-intensive chemotherapy.
Stem Cell Transplant (Bone Marrow)
After chemotherapy, the patient receives a stem cell (bone marrow) transplant to replace the destroyed cells. The transplant is also designed to allow the bone marrow to re-form to produce healthy blood components. Bone marrow transplants are not available for people over the age of 55.
Depending on the patient's case, other leukemia treatments may be used. These may include:
- Radiotherapy: uses radiation or other types of energy to kill leukemia cells.
- Targeted therapy: uses drugs that block the growth and division of leukemia cells.
- Immunotherapy: stimulates the patient's immune system to attack leukemia cells.
- Supportive care.
Side effects of blood cancer treatments
Leukemia treatments, especially chemotherapy, can have serious effects on the patient's body. These side effects include:
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Hair loss.
- Fatigue and lack of energy.
- Loss of appetite and weight.
- Heart problems
- Anemia due to low blood cell counts.
- Mucositis (inflammation of the lining of the mouth).
To help manage these side effects, medications are available to help patients recover.
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