The term “leukemia” comes from the Greek words ”leukos” (meaning – white) and “haima” (meaning – blood).
It is a type of cancer that starts in blood-forming tissue, typically in the bone marrow. Bone marrow produces blood cells. Leukemia can happen when there is a problem with the production of blood cells.
In a small number of patients, leukemia develops in other blood-forming cells, for instance, in developing platelets or developing red cells.
Leukemia strikes females and males of all races and all ages. It does not discriminate. This cancer is different from other types of cancer which start in organs such as the colon, lungs, or breast and then spread to the bone marrow.
19 Interesting Facts About Leukemia:
1) There are many types of leukemia, that are classified by the specific type of white blood cell involved. Also, chronic leukemia progresses more slowly than acute leukemia and may not need treatment for a long time after it is diagnosed.
2) Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) – it is the most common leukemia in adults. CLL is a type of cancer in which the bone marrow makes too many lymphocytes. Lymphocytes help your body fight infection. It often occurs during or after middle age and is very rare in children.
3) Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) – it affects mostly adults. CML is an indolent cancer in which too many myeloblasts are found in the bone marrow and blood. According to the National Cancer Institute, an estimated 9,000 new cases of chronic myelogenous leukemia are diagnosed annually. The 5-year survival rate for this type of leukemia is 66.9%.
4) Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) – it occurs mostly in children. Approximately 6,000 new cases of acute lymphocytic leukemia are diagnosed annually, according to the National Cancer Institute. The 5-year survival rate for acute lymphocytic leukemia is 68.2%. ALL develops and progresses quickly, hence, it needs to be treated as soon as it is diagnosed. This type of leukemia affects very immature blood cells, preventing them from maturing properly.
5) Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) – it is an aggressive disease in which too many myeloblasts (immature white blood cells) are found in the blood and bone marrow. It occurs in adults and children but is the most common type of acute leukemia in adults. Over 22,000 new cases of acute myelogenous leukemia are diagnosed annually in the US, according to the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program of the National Cancer Institute.
6) Juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia (JMML) – it is an uncommon blood cancer that can progress rapidly without treatment. JMML is most frequently diagnosed in infants and children younger than 6 years old.
7) Hairy cell leukemia (HCL) – it is a type of blood cancer that starts in the bone marrow. It’s a rare type of leukemia in adults. HCL gets its name from the short, thin projections which look like hair on its cells.
8) This cancer occurs when the DNA (the hereditary material in humans ) of a single cell in the bone marrow becomes damaged. This is called a mutation and changes the cell’s capacity to develop and function correctly.
9) Although the exact cause of the DNA mutation which leads to leukemia is unknown, doctors have discovered certain factors that may put an individual at a higher risk of developing a form of the disease. These include:
- exposure to chemicals, such as benzene, is linked to an increased risk of some kinds of leukemia. Benzene is a chemical that is present in the air largely as a pollutant from manufacturing and motor vehicle exhaust. In addition, cigarette smoke contains benzene.
- exposure to high levels of radiation — individuals exposed to high levels of radiation (from treatment for other cancers) are at increased risk;
- smoking tobacco increases your risk of developing acute myeloid leukemia;
- genetic disorders, like Down syndrome (also known as trisomy 21);
- blood disorders, like – myelodysplastic syndrome, a condition that can occur when the blood-forming cells in the bone marrow become abnormal.
10) Common symptoms may include:
- loss of appetite;
- weight loss;
- pain in the bones or joints;
- discomfort or swelling in the abdomen;
- swollen lymph nodes which usually don’t hurt;
- frequent infections;
- fevers or night sweats;
- bleeding and bruising easily;
- feeling weak or tired,
11) Most patients with the condition will have a bone marrow sample taken to confirm the diagnosis and to help to determine exactly what type of leukemia a sufferer has.
12) The treatment of leukemia depends on certain features of the leukemia cells, the type of leukemia, prior history of treatment, the extent of the disease, as well as the health and age of the patient.
13) Treatment options typically include:
- surgery – your healthcare professional can remove your spleen if it is filled with cancer cells and is pressing on nearby organs;
- chemotherapy – it uses medications to kill cancer cells in your blood and bone marrow;
- stem cell transplant – it replaces the leukemia cells in the bone marrow with new ones which make blood;
- radiation – it uses high-energy X-rays to kill leukemia cells or keep them from growing;
- targeted therapy – it uses drugs to block specific proteins or genes which cancer cells require to grow;
- biologic therapy – it helps the immune system find and attack cancer cells.
14) An estimated 60,300 new cases of leukemia are expected to be diagnosed in the US in 2018.
15) It is the most common cancer in children under 15. It is also the most common type of blood cancer in people older than 55.
16) There will be approximately 1,735,350 new cancer cases diagnosed and 609,640 cancer deaths in the US in 2018. The number of deaths from leukemia is about 6.7 per 100,000 per year.
17) Among women, white women have the highest rate of developing leukemia (10.6 per 100,000 women), followed by Hispanic women (8.9), black women (8.4), Asian/Pacific Islander women (6.2), and American Indian/Alaska Native women (5.3).
18) Among men, white men have the highest rate of developing leukemia (17.5 per 100,000 men), followed by black men (13.0), Hispanic men (12.3), Asian/Pacific Islander men (9.4), and American Indian/Alaska Native men (9.2).
19) Over 6,100 people in Canada are expected to develop leukemia in 2018.