How do physicians diagnose leukemia? 1
  • Medical History
  • Bone Marrow Aspiration and Biopsy
  • Lumbar Puncture

Some advanced tests for classification and prognosis:

  • Flow Cytometry
  • Karyotyping
  • FISH
  • PCR Analysis

What is the treatment for leukemia?

Treatment will typically depend upon the type of leukemia, the patient’s age and health status, as well as whether or not the leukemia cells have spread to the cerebrospinal fluid.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is the administration of drugs that kill rapidly dividing cells such as leukemia or other cancer cells. Chemotherapy may be taken orally in pill or tablet form, or it may be delivered via a catheter or intravenous line directly into the bloodstream. Combination chemotherapy is usually given, which involves a combination of more than one drug. The drugs are given in cycles with rest periods in between.

Sometimes, chemotherapy drugs for leukemia are delivered directly to the cerebrospinal fluid (known as intrathecal chemotherapy). Intrathecal chemotherapy is given in addition to other types of chemotherapy and can be used to treat leukemia in the brain or spinal cord or, in some cases, to prevent spread of leukemia to the brain and spinal cord.

Side effects of chemotherapy depend on the particular drugs taken and the dosage or regimen. Some side effects from chemotherapy drugs include hair loss, nausea, vomiting, mouth sores,  loss of appetite, tiredness, easy bruising or bleeding, and an increased chance of infection due to the destruction of white blood cells. There are medications available to help manage the side effects of chemotherapy.

Some adult men and women who receive chemotherapy sustain damage to the ovaries or testes, resulting in infertility. Most children who receive chemotherapy for leukemia will have normal fertility as adults, but depending on the drugs and dosages used, some may have infertility as adults.

Biological therapy

Biological therapy is any treatment that uses living organisms, substances that come from living organisms, or synthetic versions of these substances to treat cancer. Biological therapies for various types of cancer can include antibodies, tumor vaccines, or cytokines (substances that are produced within the body to control the immune system). Monoclonal antibodies are antibodies that react against a specific target that are used in the treatment of many kinds of cancer. Interferons are cell signaling chemicals that have been used in the treatment of leukemia.

Side effects of biological therapies tend to be less severe than those of chemotherapy and can include rash or swelling at the injection site for IV infusions of the therapeutic agents. Other side effects can include headache, muscle aches, fever or tiredness.

Targeted therapy

Targeted therapies are drugs that interfere with one specific property or function of a cancer cell, rather than acting to kill all rapidly growing cells indiscriminately. This means there is less damage to normal cells with targeted therapy than with chemotherapy. Targeted therapies may cause the target cell to cease growing rather than to die, and they interfere with specific molecules that promote growth or spread of cancers.

Targeted therapies are given in pill form or by injection. Side effects can include swelling, bloating, and sudden weight gain. Other side effects can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea,muscle cramps  or rash.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy uses high energy radiation to target cancer cells. Radiation therapy may be used in the treatment of leukemia that has spread to the brain, or it may be used to target the spleen or other areas where leukemia cells have accumulated.

Radiation therapy also causes side effects, but they are not likely to be permanent. Side effects depend on the location of the body that is irradiated. With any radiation therapy, the skin in the area being treated may become red, dry, and tender. Generalized tiredness is also common while undergoing radiation therapy.

Stem cell transplant

In stem cell transplantation, high doses of chemotherapy and/or radiation are given to destroy leukemia cells along with normal bone marrow. Then, transplant stem cells are delivered by an intravenous infusion. The stem cells travel to the bone marrow and begin producing new blood cells. Stem cells may come from the patient or from a donor.

Autologous stem cell transplantation refers to the situation in which the patient’s own stem cells are removed and treated to destroy leukemia cells. They are then returned to the body after the bone marrow and leukemia cells have been destroyed.

An allogeneic stem cells transplant refers to stem cells transplanted from a donor. These may be from a relative or an unrelated donor. A syngeneic stem cell transplant uses stem cells taken from a healthy identical twin of the patient.

Stem cells may be removed (harvested) in different ways. Typically, they are taken from the blood. They can also be harvested from the bone marrow or from umbilical cord blood.

Stem cell transplantation is done in a hospital, and it is necessary to remain in the hospital for several weeks. Risks of the procedure include infections and bleeding due to the depletion of normal blood cells. A risk of stem cell transplant with donor cells is known as graft-versus-host disease (GVHD). In GVHD, the donor white blood cells react against the patient’s normal tissues. GVHD can be mild or very severe, and often affects the liver, skin, or digestive tract. GVHD can occur at any time after the transplant, even years later. Steroids or medications that suppress the immune response may be used to treat this complication.

Supportive treatments

Because many of the treatments for leukemia deplete normal blood cells, increasing the risk for bleeding and infection, supportive treatments may be needed to help prevent these complications of treatment. Supportive treatments may also be needed to help minimize and manage unpleasant side effects of medical or radiation therapy.

Types of supportive and preventive treatments that can be used for patients undergoing treatment for leukemia include the following:

  • Vaccines against the flu or pneumonia 
  • Blood or platelet transfusions
  • Anti-nausea medications
  • Antibiotics or antiviral medications to treat or prevent infections
  • Red cell growth factors to stimulate red blood cell production
  • Intravenous injections of immunoglobulins to help fight infection

Summary : essential facts you should know about leukemia:

1) Leukemia is a cancer of the blood and marrow, which is the spongy center inside of the bones where blood cells are made.

 2)The four major types of leukemia are:

 3) Leukemia is the most common cancer in children and teens younger than 20, accounting for almost one out of three cancers.

 4) Acute leukemias are the rapidly progressing diseases, and chronic leukemias usually progress more slowly.

 5) Leukemia can happen at any age, but is most common in people over 60.

 

CategoryLeukemia Cancer

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