March 14, 2016


Leukaemia is a cancer which starts in blood-forming tissue, usually the bone marrow. It leads to the over-production of abnormal white blood cells, the part of the immune system which defends the body against infection.
Blood cells are formed in the bone marrow, the spongy tissue found inside the bones. Blood-forming stem cells divide to produce either more stem cells or immature cells that become mature blood cells over time. A blood stem cell may become a myeloid stem cell or a lymphoid stem cell.

A myeloid stem cell becomes one of three types of mature blood cells:
    Red blood cells that carry oxygen and other substances to all tissues of the body.
    Platelets that form blood clots to stop bleeding.
    Granulocytes (white blood cells) that fight infection and disease.
A lymphoid stem cell becomes a lymphoblast cell and then one of three types of lymphocytes (white blood cells):
    B lymphocytes that make antibodies to help fight infection.
    T lymphocytes that help B lymphocytes make the antibodies that help fight infection.
    Natural killer cells that attack cancer cells and viruses.
Leukaemia affects white blood cells and can be classified either by the type of white cell affected (myeloid or lymphatic) or by the way the disease progresses (acute or chronic). Acute and chronic do not refer to how serious the disease is but to how rapidly it progresses.
Types of leukaemia
    There are four main types of leukaemia:
        Acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) - Rapidly developing, affects myeloid cells (granulocytes)
        Chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML) - Slowly developing, affects myeloid cells (granulocytes)
       Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) - Rapidly developing, affects lymphocytes
        Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) - Slowly developing, affects lymphocytes
    Acute leukaemia progresses rapidly, unless effectively treated but it can often be cured with standard treatments, such as bone marrow transplants, especially in younger and/or fitter patients,
    Chronic leukaemia progresses slowly but, although it can be treated and managed, it is not usually possible to cure chronic leukaemia with standard treatments.
    What causes leukaemia?
    In most cases of leukaemia there is no obvious cause. However, it is important to understand that:
        Leukaemia is not a condition which can be caught from someone else (contagious)
        Leukaemia is not passed on from a parent to a child (inherited)
    Risk factors:
        Age - most forms of leukaemia are more common in older people. The main exception to this is ALL in which peak incidence is in children
        Gender - leukaemias are generally more common in males
        Genetics - although leukaemia is not an inherited disease, there is a slightly higher chance that close relatives of patients may develop some forms of leukaemia. The risk is still very small and there is no cause for anxiety or for screening tests
        Chemical exposure - being exposed to some chemicals and high levels of radiation may increase the chance of developing leukaemia. These factors account for only a very small proportion of all cases
        Some forms of leukaemia are seen more commonly in people who have other bone marrow disorders. The most common disorders which behave in this way are myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) and the myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPN)

1 comment:

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