Leukaemia is a term used for the cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. This includes the bone marrow and the lymphatic system. Cancer is the abnormal growth of cells that can be found anywhere in the body. In the case of leukaemia, this rapid growth of abnormal cells occurs in the bone marrow.
Bone marrow is the soft, spongy tissue present in the centre cavity of the bones. The blood cells are produced in the bone marrow. These blood cells help in the healthy functioning of our body. The red blood cells carry oxygen and all the other essential minerals to the tissues and organs of the body, while the white blood cells help fight the infection. Platelets, on the other hand, help in keeping away the blood clots.
Some forms of leukaemia are more commonly found among children, while there are some forms that are diagnosed among adults as well. Leukaemia usually involves the white blood cells, which perform the function of fighting infections or foreign bodies. In the case of leukaemia, the bone marrow produces excessive white blood cells that are abnormal and function improperly.
The initial stage of every blood cell is the hematopoietic stem cells. These stem cells undergo multiple changes before taking the adult form.
In the case of a healthy person, the adult form of these cells would be Myeloid cells, which develop in the red blood cells, platelets and some areas of the white blood cells, and Lymphoid cells that take the shape of certain types of white blood cells.
However, people diagnosed with leukaemia will have a condition where one of the blood cells will start multiplying rapidly. This aggressive growth of the abnormal cells or the leukaemia cells takes their place inside the bone marrow. This abrupt growth of the abnormal cells does not take part in the functioning of the body. Because they take up the space occupied by the normal cells, the latter is forced to be released into the bloodstream so as to pave the way for the cancer-causing cells. As a result of this, the body’s organs will not get the adequate oxygen required to sustain the functions of the organs, and the white blood cells will lose their ability to fight infections.
There are two major types of Leukaemia based on how quickly this disease progresses:
This is very aggressive leukaemia, where the abnormal cells divide and spread at an alarming rate. This is the most common paediatric cancer.
Chronic leukaemia can have both immature and mature cells. Chronic leukaemia is less aggressive as compared to acute leukaemia. This worsens over time, and the symptoms may not be apparent for many years. Adults are more prone to chronic leukaemia than children.
The types of leukaemia based on the cell type are:
This type of leukaemia originates from the myeloid cell line.
These form in the lymphoid cell line.
However, it is also to be noted that in many cases none of these factors can come into play. The reasons for such cases remain unknown.
However, not every leukaemia type circulates in the blood. Most of them originate in the bone marrow.
Depending on the age, overall health, type of leukaemia and whether it has spread to other parts of the body, the doctor will suggest the treatment that will have the most effective results. These treatments include:
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