Leukemia is a cancer that affects the production of red and white blood cells in the bone marrow. White blood cells help the body resist infection. Red blood cells perform a variety of functions, including supplying other cells with oxygen. There are four common kinds of leukemia and several less common variants. Some varieties impact more children than adults, and other affect more adults than children. Juvenile and adult leukemia is further classified as either acute or chronic. Acute leukemia attacks blood cells that are starting to form, which allows it to grow quickly. Chronic leukemia focuses on fully-developed cells and grows slowly. Both acute and chronic leukemia respond to treatment.
Fact: White blood cells are infection fighters. The bone marrow of a person with leukemia produces a very limited number of healthy white blood cells. Frequent infections are the result of not enough white blood cells in the blood stream.
Fact: A person with leukemia is unable to produce adequate amounts of red blood cells and the platelets needed to help blood clot properly. Excessive bruising or bleeding is an important warning of leukemia.
Fact: Anemia includes pale skin, shortness of breath, and excessive bleeding. It’s a telltale symptom of the scarcity of red blood cells. Deficient red blood cells are a result of leukemia.
Fact: Leukemia invades bone marrow and produces abnormal blood cells. As all cancerous cells do, the abnormal cells grow rapidly. The excess cells can accumulate in the bones and joints, creating pain throughout the body.
Fact: The liver and the spleen are located in the abdomen. Both organs filter blood. The spleen also recycles and stores blood cells. Leukemic red and white blood cells collect in both organs, causing enlargement and swelling.
Fact: The lymph glands are part of the immune system. They filter cancer cells, microorganisms, and foreign materials from blood plasma. Persistently swollen lymph glands occur from an invasion of leukemic cells rather than a normal infection.
Fact: Early leukemia symptoms include fatigue, weakness, and a general sense of not feeling well. That’s because the bone marrow is no longer able to produce enough red blood cells to transport oxygen to the organs and muscles.
Fact: Small red spots, medically known as petechiae, are dots of blood pooled under the skin. Petechiae are caused by broken blood vessels. They are a symptom of inadequate red blood cell and platelet production due to leukemia.