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more about Leukemia

Acute leukemia

  • Leukemia is a life-threatening cancer of the white blood cells in the bone marrow.  White blood cells normally function to fight infections.  There are two major types of white blood cells -- neutrophils and lymphocytes -- allowing for two types of acute Leukemias: myelocytic (also known as AML, i.e., acute myelocytic Leukemia) and lymphocytic (also known as ALL, i.e., acute lymphocytic Leukemia).
  • Both forms of acute Leukemia inhibit the bone marrow's production of needed blood components, including red blood cells and platelets (structures involved in clotting blood).
  • ALL is the most common cause of cancer in children, generally occurring between ages 3 and 5, but it can also affect adolescents and, occasionally, adults.
  • AML affects people of all ages but is more common in adults.  It is a life-threatening cancer that rapidly replaces the normal cells in the bone marrow.

  • Bleeding in gums
  • Bleeding under the skin, such as bruises or spots
  • Nosebleeds
  • Increased menstrual bleeding
  • Thickened and swollen gums
  • Bone pain
  • Joint pain
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Shortness of breath
  • Severe infections are rare.

  • Usually unknown
  • Radiation
  • Benzene
  • Cancer chemotherapy

  • Examination:
    1. Skin is pale
    2. Rash with red dots on the skin called petechiae
    3. Enlarged liver
    4. Enlarged spleen
    5. Enlarged lymph nodes
    6. Bone tenderness
  • Laboratory Findings:
    1. Manual Complete blood count shows diffuse decrease in all blood records with the presence of blast cells (immature white blood cells).
    2. Acute lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL) will have granules in blast cells.  A special cell marker called TdT is present in 95 percent of cases.  It is subtyped to either B-cell or T-cell type.
    3. Genetic testing on the cells is performed.  
    4. Acute myelogenous Leukemia (AML) shows Auer rods in the blast cells.  Special stains may also be done.
    5. Genetic testing is performed and t (8,21), t (15,17), and inv16q have a more favorable prognosis.
    6. A bone marrow biopsy showing 30 percent or more blast forms, confirming the diagnosis
    7. Other lab findings may include disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC), which is a severe depletion of clotting factors in the blood.
    8. Uric acid level may be elevated.
    9. Lumbar puncture (spinal tap) will show blasts if meningeal Leukemia is present.

  • Intensive chemotherapy is recommended.  During this period, there is a high risk of infection.  Transfusion of blood products may be needed.
  • Drug agents prescribed for AML include daunorubicin (antibiotic) and cytarabine.
  • Drug agents prescribed for ALL include Daunorubicin, Vincristine, Prednisone, and Asparaginase.
  • After initial therapy, intense chemotherapy, high dose chemotherapy, and radiation with bone marrow transplant may be recommended to cure the disease.

  • You need immediate medical treatment.  This is a curable disease.  In AML, nearly 80 percent of adults younger than 60 years of age can be cured. 50 percent of patients older than 60 years may also be cured.  In ALL, usually 80 percent of adults and 95 percent of children are cured.

  • Blast Crisis

-  This is a severe elevation of the white blood cell count to greater than 200,000/ml.  Normal levels of white blood cells are 10,0000/ml.  The high level of white bloods cells interferes with the circulation of red blood cells, which carry oxygen.  Confusion, headaches, and shortness of breath are some of the symptoms.  This is a life-threatening emergency.  Blood must be filtered in a process called leukapheresis, and chemotherapy administered immediately.

more about Leukemia

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