What is Leukemia?

Today, one of the most dangerous and incurable condition seems to be cancer. It has no actual cure for mostly of the tissues it affects, especially when it reaches vital organs such as heart, lungs or blood. The blood tissue form of cancer is known as Leukemia and it represents a real life threat as it affects the blood circulation meant to supply the whole body with vital nutriments.

Blood is the connection tissue for all of the body’s organs and tissue as it carries oxygen and other important elements for the cell life. This is the reason why leukemia is such dangerous and frightening disease. Blood has access to all vital organs like heart, lungs and brain and when Leukemia occurs, it will rapidly create a dysfunction of all the other organs by supplying them with unhealthy particles. Cancerous cells are quickly carried to all parts of the organism and the dissemination occurs in a very short period of time.

Leukemia is in fact the consequence of an abnormality occurred in the form and number of leukocytes, the blood white cells. Leucocytes are vital for the good functioning of the body as they have the role to fight against all potential aggressions from the outside. They are the key to a good protection against infections and when leukemia appears the cellular immunity decreases drastically leaving the body unable to protect against damaging factors of any nature.

The main pathological way of the disease is an increased production by the marrow of infected and abnormal white blood cells. The new leucocytes anatomically and functionally modified and interfere with all functions of the blood even hindering the normal oxygen transport. Modified white blood cells also damage the normal functioning of the red blood cells and lead to the occurrence of anemia. Cancerous cells impede the tissue supply with hemoglobin and the body cells suffer from the lack of iron.

When the cancerous cells reach the brain, other dangerous modifications appear such as headaches, night sweats and neuropsychical problems. Cancerous Leukemia cells can be easily detected under the microscope and the suspects of the disease are advised to undergo a bone marrow examination. The onset of Leukemia is pointed out by swollen lymph nodes through the whole body, especially around the neck and thigh.

Risk factors for Leukemia are especially radioactive radiations that produce cell mutations and damages to their activity. An overexposure to benzene, an industrial hydrocarbure, also increases the risk of developing Leukemia, as well as the Down syndrome.

The most effective but also painful treatment is chemotherapy when the patients need to swallow many drugs at once. Another possibility of treatment is radiotherapy and patients suffer from losing hair and skin texture.

Leukemia is curable if detected in time and treated right. A bone marrow transplant may be helpful to regain healthy white blood cells. For a good outcome, the patients especially need the support of the family.

Signs and Symptoms of Leukemia

Our brains have a strange and very capable way of enabling us to cope with just about everything that is thrown our way. Looking back a month or two prior to being diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia, I now am able to clearly see the signs that were right in front of me. Of course, my very capable brain was able to create a perfectly logical explanation for every one of my symptoms.

Probably one of the very first symptoms that I noticed, and disregarded, was my hugely swollen spleen. I remember lying in bed one night reading; I said to Joe, “You know, things just don’t seem to fit in here like they used to.” I just didn’t feel like I could get comfortable and that “things” were crowded on the left hand side of my abdomen; up under my left rib cage. It felt tight to the touch, but it also just felt thick, like muscle. It didn’t hurt and most of the time I didn’t even notice that it was there.

The second symptom that I noticed was probably the fact that I was just a bit more tired than usual. That symptom was easily discarded since Joe and I are always on the go. Our feet hit the floor running every morning and don’t stop until we go to bed. That coupled with the fact that I was soon to be 52, I just chalked being tired up to, doing too much and “old age”!

The third symptom was that I seemed to become a bit short of breath, when I danced. December was a very busy dance month for us as we were preparing to dance at the UCWDC World’s Championship in Nashville Tennessee, the first week of January. That year was the very first year that I had ever competed in anything in my life. We competed in the Pro/Am division and I was the Am. Dancing was something that I had wanted to do my entire life and I had finally begun to learn to dance a few years prior. Joe and I actually met when I took a class that he was teaching at a dance convention and now we are competing in the pro/am category.

So, back to my windedness; we compete in eight dances and while practicing our routines, it is typical to run through them one right after the other for an hour straight. I started running out of gas during practice several months before World’s. When I was competing, I was wondering what the elevation of Nashville was, as I was a bit winded dancing there. I didn’t know if it was the elevation or my nerves, but I did notice that I was a bit short of breath after every dance. After competing at World’s, we took a short hiatus from practicing; when we resumed, I told Joe that it seemed weird how quickly I became winded. I had to stop between routines to catch my breath. I chalked that up to being out of shape, and for being a slacker for the past three weeks. Of course, now I know that it was a symptom of my leukemia. I did place eighth in my division at World’s; but I just know that if I hadn’t had leukemia, I would have come in first!! And no, there weren’t only eight in my division, there were twenty four competitors.

My fourth symptom was the bruising. Now I must preface this with the fact that I am very clumsy and am always bruised. I never remember where I got them; I just know that they are there. Looking back though, this bruising was different. The bruising on my body, just prior to being diagnosed with CML was a bit odd. I seemed to have more of them and they seemed to last longer. They were also hard to the touch; like a bulge under the skin. (This was from the overabundance of white blood cells.) They popped up with a slighter bump or bang than they used to. I noticed them and reprimanded myself to start being more careful. The odd thing about this symptom is that I KNOW that it is can be a sign of leukemia. When my daughter was only four years old, I took her to the doctor and insisted that he check her for leukemia because she was always covered with bruises. Yes, she was a tomboy and no, I didn’t beat her! It is amazing to me that I never correlated the bruising to leukemia within myself.

The fifth symptom was probably the headaches. I had been having headaches at the back of my head for quite some time. I chalked that up to needing my eye glass prescription updated and changed. The headaches seemed most prevalent at night, while watching TV or reading, or while working on the computer. In other words, while concentrating. Yes, I know, taxing on the brain! I made an appointment to go and see an optometrist on January 13, 2011. During my eye exam, while looking into my eyes with that very bright light, the doctor asked me three questions. “Do you have high blood pressure?” I answered, “No, I have low blood pressure.” “Do you have diabetes?” I answered again, “No, not that I know of.” “Are you anemic?” Once again I answered, “No, not that I am aware of,” “Why?” “You are frightening me, should I be scared?” He replied, “Well, you have a significant amount of blood in your eyes.” Of course, I freaked out a bit and asked him what it could mean. He said that he wasn’t sure, but assured me that I would not go blind, but also said that I should make an appointment to see a retina specialist within the next month or so.

Now you must remember that I have been dealing with Cipro poisoning for the past nine months. My immediate reaction was that this might also be Cipro related. I went directly to the pharmacist and told her what the eye doc had said and asked her what she thought. She agreed that it could very likely be Cirpo related as Cipro not only affects your muscles, joints and tendons; it can also affect your vascular system. That in combination with all of the Ibuprofen that I had been taking for the muscle pain, my vascular system could be compromised and my blood could be thin causing the eye bleeds. I left disgusted and prayed that it would not be Cipro related because if it was, there was nothing that could be done. Moral to that story, be careful what you wish for and be very specific when you are sending out prayers!

The sixth symptom was the night sweats. I had been having night sweats for approximately six weeks and would wake up damp and cold. I was constantly kicking the covers off and then pulling them back on, all night long. This of course I related to hormones. It was a no brainer and I would be talking to my doctor about it at my next appointment.

Number seven was the bite-like rash that I suddenly starting getting on my torso. You know that the first thing I did was wash my sheets and check the bed for bed bugs. I was convinced that we must have them and that I was just sweeter than Joe, because he didn’t have any of the bites! You guessed it, no bed bugs. I hadn’t changed detergent and I hadn’t been camping. My skin is still very sensitive and I really just want to run around naked all of the time as clothing drives me crazy. Let’s hope the phase passes!

The last and final symptom, and probably the one that would have eventually sent me to the doctor, was the extreme fullness I felt when I ate; and my funny blood. It was Super Bowl Sunday and I had a routine doctors’ appointment in two days. Joe and I were viciously trying to get our yard work done before the Super Bowl began. I was mowing the front yard while he mowed the back. I remember finishing one side and looking at the other thinking, I just can’t do it! I was pooped and had to force myself to finish mowing the lawn. I kept thinking what a baby I was being since I had mowed the front and back on previous occasions and never even been tired. I convinced myself to finish mowing and while doing so I pricked my arm on a rose thorn. It started to bleed and I ignored it. Joe had finished the back yard and had come to see how I was doing. I was through mowing and was putting the mower into the garage. Both of us looked at my blood and thought that it looked “weird.” We both said, “That doesn’t look right.” It was sort of an orange color, not really red. I still had not a clue; my brain and common sense in total denial.

Joe started the BBQ and I made a salad and veggies. We sat down to eat and within four bites I was stuffed. I thought that it was strange as I usually eat much more, but figured that my lunch was still with me. Being that Joe works for Anheuser-Busch, we of course had beer on ice. I found it odd that it took me practically an hour to drink just one beer. The Super Bowl was over and I was still miserably full. I wasn’t even able to go to bed until midnight because I felt like a stuffed pig. I was so miserable. Do you think that by now I would have a clue that something was terribly wrong? Looking back, I can hardly believe that I didn’t.

So, as a recap; my symptoms included fullness due to a swollen spleen, eye bleeds due to blocked and burst capillaries from an overabundance of white blood cells, shortness of breath, funny looking blood, tiredness, bruising, night sweats, a skin rash and frequent headaches. All of these I easily explained away and none of them interfered with my everyday life. Duh!

Child Leukemia – Generalities, Symptoms and Treatment

Leukemia interferes with the body’s production of white blood cells. These cells are supposed to fight infections with viruses or bacteria, and when someone has leukemia, they are defective and their number is largely increased, but because they are not fulfilling their role any more, although their number can increase ten times the body’s defense system is seriously weakened and any infection can be very dangerous.

Unfortunately leukemia can affect young children too, and the number of child leukemia cases keeps increasing.

There are two types of leukemia – acute leukemia – a cancer that develops and evolves very fast and it affects all the white blood cells, and chronic leukemia – it develops slower and healthy white blood cells can still be found.

More than 95% of the child leukemia cases are acute leukemia. Acute leukemia can also be divided into acute acute myelogenous leukemia and lymphocytic leukemia acute myelogenous leukemia because there are two types of blood cells, and each type of leukemia affects a different kind of blood cells. More than half of the children with leukemia have acute lymphocytic leukemia.

The symptoms of acute leukemia start with fever, and continue with many infections, because the child is weak against any damaging foreign microorganisms.

When the disease advances the child becomes anemic and begins to have a pale color. He will always feel a sensation of weakness and fatigue which will prevent him from playing outdoors.

All leukemia patients, including children can be bruised very easy, and the often bleed for no reason. When bleeding occurs it cannot be stopped for a long time because leukemia affects the cells responsible for healing wounds.

If the illness is not discovered and it is left untreated it starts spreading through the body and it can reach the brain, affecting some of the senses and causing headaches.

In order to diagnose child leukemia the child must go through a series of special tests. If the result is positive then therapy must begin as soon as possible. First some new tests must be performed to determine what kind of therapy works best. In most cases chemotherapy is used because it has the highest survival rate. Chemotherapy is also accompanied by drugs.

The purpose of the therapy is to heal the bone marrow, the organ that produces the defective blood cells and to kill all the malfunctioning cells from the body. If the therapy is successful it must still be continued because the cancer can re-appear.

In some more severe cases a bone marrow transplant is needed.

The good news is that therapy is getting better and better and most of the children survive this illness, but the survival rate depends on how far the cancer has advanced and on what form of it the child has.