Leukemia Symptoms

CANCER INFORMATION



Leukemia in Adults




Leukemia in adults can be either acute or chronic. It is a disease which involves the white blood cell forming organs of the body.

White blood cells or Leukocytes are involved in the immune response of the body to infection and inflammation. They vary in type and circulate in the blood stream in association with red blood cells which are responsible for carrying oxygen.

The cause of leukemia is unknown. It is characterised by the circulation of abnormal white cells and the type of leukemia upon the types white cell involved. It is a major cause of death in young male adults from the age of 15 to 35 and is second behind breast cancer in females.

There are two main forms of acute leukemia, lymphoblastic or myobastic.

Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) is more common in childhood and the outlook in the adult worsens with increasing age.

The usual signs of leukemia include pallor, fever associated with weakness and malaise, loss of appetite, bone and joint pain, minute little blood on the skin swelling of glands.

Complications include hemorrhage into the stomach and intestine, brain hemorrhage and infection which can lead to death.

Acute Myobastic Leukemia (AML) is the most common acute leukemia in adults and the course of he disease is characterised by acute symptoms followed by periods of remission or freedom from symptoms.

With treatment approximately 15% - 25% of patients are well and free of disease for a period of 5 - 10 years.

Leukemia sometimes progresses more slowly - this is called chronic leukemia. Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL) is most frequently diagnosed in the elderly in the course of a general investigation of blood. There may be no associated symptoms except pallor and weakness due to anemia which develops slowly as the disease progresses. There may be enlarged glands which can cause pressure symptoms particularly in the region of the throat producing breathing difficulties. In elderly patients the disease may remain inactive even without treatment which is held in reserve until symptoms become apparent.

Chronic Mylocyctic Leukemia (CML) is a more serious type of leukemia occurring most frequently in males between the age of 25 and 60. The onset can be insidious although most patients present the symptoms of malaise, fatigue, sweating, pallor, weight loss and bone pain.

The condition can be present in the chronic stage for approximately three years with varying symptoms and then develop suddenly into a treatment - resistant acute stage lasting for about 6 months.

Diagnosis of leukemia is made by examination of the blood and bone marrow.

Treatment includes chemotherapy, radiotherapy and blood transfusions. Cortisone can be useful in chronic lymphcytic leukemia. Antibiotics have been used for associated infections and sometimes it may be necessary to remove the spleen. Bone marrow transplants are sometimes used as well.

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