The word Leukemia is enough to send shivers down many of our spines. Let us explore what this word entails.
Leukemia is in essence a cancer of the bone marrow and thus it leads to many ABNORMAL WHITE CELLS. The bone marrow is like a factory for the production of all your cell lines namely, the red cells, white cells and platelets that’s involved in clotting. The bone marrow can produce approximately 200 billion blood cells everyday.
The cause of Leukemia is not yet fully understood but it has been said that a combination of genetic factors, such as family history, as well as environmental factors such as radiation or exposure to certain chemicals play a major role in developing the condition.
There are different types of leukemias:
Now we also have to look at which cell line has been affected in order to classify the type of leukemia.
The cells involved commonly are lymphocytes or lymphoblasts and abnormalities can lead to ALL (acute lymphoblastic leukemia) AND CLL (Chronic lymphocytic leukemia).
There are also leukemias affecting a tissue called the myeloid tissue and thus the terms AML (acute myelogenous leukemia) AND CML (chronic myelogenous leukemia).
There are also different subgroups within these groups, but these 4 make up a great percentage of the leukemia’s.
The symptoms that we need to be aware of are some of the following (also refer to attached image):
If leukemia is suspected, blood tests can be done but this is largely to do a Full blood count to ascertain what the values of the blood cells are, as well as a a blood smear to visualize the cells under the microscope. If this is still not sufficient, a lymph node biopsy or even a bone marrow biopsy might have to be done. This is done with the aid of a specialist. Both of these are done under anasthesia.
Once the diagnosis is made, the treatment plan will be discussed and involves a multidisciplinary team of specialists.
The important aspect is early diagnosis. It is thus very important to recognize the symptoms early and seek medical advice especially for your little ones.
Remember weight gain in children is very important. A stagnant weight is children is almost always an indicator of pathology. So make it a habit to weigh them.