What is Leukemia?

The type of cancer that affects the blood cells in the body is called Leukemia. Most of the time, it is the white blood cells that are targeted with this disease. Some types of leukemia are acute and the cancer grows rapidly, while other forms are chronic and the leukemia advances at a slow rate.

Physicians diagnose leukemia by taking a blood count and by examining the blood with the use of a microscope. It may also be necessary for a physician to perform a biopsy and take a tissue sample from bone marrow or the lymph nodes. This type of test will allow the physician to recognize the specific kind of leukemia and how fast it is growing.

What are the Symptoms of Leukemia?

The symptoms that each person experiences is determined by their specific type of leukemia diagnosis.

General symptoms include always feeling tired and weak, unexplained weight loss, bone and joint pain, continual infections, nosebleeds and enlarged lymph nodes. Some people see small red dots on their skin, known as petechiae, which are caused by bleeding capillaries. Individuals who have leukemia have the tendency to bruise very easily and bleed heavily, even with minor wounds.

How is Leukemia Treated?

After a leukemia diagnosis, a physician will recommend a specific treatment plan that is tailored for each patient. The most common form of treatment for leukemia is chemotherapy, which consists of chemicals that destroy cancer cells.

Other types of treatments for leukemia include radiation therapy, targeted therapy and biological therapy. A stem cell transplant is another option for individuals who have leukemia. Prior to the procedure, the patient’s bone marrow is destroyed by using a high amount of radiation or chemotherapy drugs. Next, the patient’s own stem cells or those from a donor are infused into the body to replace the destroyed bone marrow.

Last Reviewed:
September 14, 2016
Last Updated:
September 01, 2017