Cancer is a word that everybody is afraid of. It doesn’t only destroy the lives of those suffering from it, but also of the patient’s loved ones. There are different types of cancers, all affecting the body in different ways. One such type is Leukaemia. It may not be the first time you would have heard of the name, given the fact that it affects a significant number of people worldwide.
Fighting Leukaemia is an uphill battle that requires courage, expertise and a good medical infrastructure. In this blog, we aim to know more about leukaemia by breaking it down into easily digestible information. We’ll explore what leukaemia is, how it manifests, and the profound impact it has on the human body,
What is Leukaemia?
Leukaemia is among many other types of cancer. It typically affects bone marrow and the blood. Put simply, it’s a condition where your body starts making excess white blood cells. These abnormal cells are called leukaemic cells, and they crowd out the healthy blood cells in your body, disrupting its normal functioning.
How does Leukaemia develop?
Understanding how leukaemia develops is vital. In simple terms, our blood is made up of different types of cells: red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. These cells are produced in our bone marrow, which is the soft, spongy tissue found in the centre of our bones.
Leukaemia starts when some blood cells, usually white blood cells, undergo changes in their DNA. These genetic mutations cause these cells to grow and divide uncontrollably. The overproduction of these abnormal white blood cells can crowd out the healthy cells, making it harder for our body to perform its essential functions.
Although the exact causes of leukaemia are not clear, there are a few factors that may increase your risk of being diagnosed with leukaemia. These include:
- Exposure to intense radiation
- Exposure to certain harmful chemicals, such as benzene
- Certain viral infections such as human T-cell leukaemia virus
- Abnormal genes
- Age, sex, family history of leukaemia
Effects on the blood
As leukaemia progresses, the abnormal white blood cells continue to multiply and accumulate in the blood. This leads to a reduction in the number of red blood cells, which can result in anaemia. Anaemia can make you feel weak, tired, and pale, as your body struggles to transport oxygen effectively.
Additionally, the excessive white blood cells are not fully functional, which impairs your body’s ability to fight infections. This makes you more susceptible to illnesses, and you might find that you get sick more often.
Bone marrow overload
The bone marrow plays a significant role in producing platelets, which are essential for blood clotting. In leukaemia, as the bone marrow becomes crowded with leukaemic cells, the production of platelets is compromised. This can lead to easy bruising and prolonged bleeding from minor injuries.
Symptoms of Leukaemia
Leukaemia doesn’t always come with obvious symptoms, especially in its early stages. However, as the disease progresses, some common signs may become noticeable:
Due to anaemia and decreased red blood cell count.
Happens because of the weakness of the immune system, owing to abnormal white blood cells.
Bruising and bleeding:
Reduced platelet count leads to easy bruising and prolonged bleeding.
As leukaemia cells accumulate in the bone marrow, they can cause bone pain and tenderness.
Swollen lymph nodes and spleen:
Enlargement of these organs is common in some types of leukaemia.
Diagnosis and treatment
Diagnosing leukaemia typically involves a blood test and a bone marrow biopsy. Once diagnosed, the treatment approach depends on the type of leukaemia and its stage. The most common treatment options may include radiation therapy, chemotherapy, stem cell transplantation and targeted therapy,
Leukaemia is indeed a challenging condition. It’s a cancer that affects the blood and bone marrow, and it can disrupt the body’s natural balance. By knowing its types, how it develops, and its effects on the body, we can better comprehend the challenges it presents.
If you or someone you know is suffering from leukaemia, remember that medical advancements have significantly improved the prognosis for many patients. Early detection and timely treatment can make a world of difference in the fight against this disease. It’s essential to stay informed, consult with healthcare professionals, and provide support for those dealing with leukaemia.