There are vast quantities of diseases that can jeopardize a human being every day, but medical achievements allowed the health care providers to diagnose and treat them accordingly. However, cancerous maladies still horrify one’s consciousness due to the complicated diagnosis and treatment. Medical scientists all over the world keep on searching for effective remedies to cure cancer-related disorders including leukemia. Leukemia belongs to the group of oncological conditions and is well-known as “white blood”. The awareness of leukemia, its clinical manifestations, and the modalities of treatment enables early diagnosis of the sickness due to being alert to anxiety symptoms. The purpose of the essay is to educate the readers on leukemia making the accent on its pathophysiology, clinical aspects, the ways of treatment, and their efficiency.
Cancer is a cellular failure connected with improper cell production and functioning that manifests in the cells’ abnormal growth and multiplication. The classification of cancer into various types depends on the organ or the place in the body where the damaged cells start appearing. Leukemia belongs to the group of the oncological diseases with specific uncontrollable multiplication of the already mutated blood cells or tumor growth. It is possible to define leukemia as the malady specified by the primary lesion of hematopoietic cells in the bone marrow. Various agents such as oncogenic viruses, radiation, chemicals, and genetic abnormalities can trigger leukemia. The disease proceeds with the gradual replacement of the normal cells with leukemic. It is considered as “malignant neoplasm of the cells derived from the myeloid or lymphoid line of the hematopoietic stem cells in the bone marrow” (“Leukemia,” 2016). Such medical conditions can cause severe life-threatening complications and health deterioration in general.
It is a well-known fact that the body cells are subject to division, maturation, functioning, and elimination according to their set-up program. Newly-formed cells are designed to replace the old destructed cells. Leukemia is a kind of cancerous malady whereby the bone marrow cells mutate into the leukemic cells prior to turning into the normal matured leukocytes. Furthermore, the malignant cells, forming a specific leukemic clone, start suppressing the work of the normal blood cells due to their increased quantity inside the blood system and the body in general. Leukemia is identified as “a cancer of the blood-forming tissues” that manifests in the substantial “increase of leucocytes in the circulation or bone marrow” (“Encyclopedia Britannica,” 2016). The discussed disease progresses when the white blood cells undergo either DNA loss or damage; therefore, further cells’ generations receive the erroneous, broken DNA. The bone marrow cells are the primordium for other blood-forming cells as leukocytes, erythrocytes, and thrombocytes. Leukocytes are the white blood cells meant to protect the body from the pathogenic agents being able to defeat various infections. Erythrocytes are responsible for oxygen and nutrients’ delivery to the tissues of the body or, in other words, for oxygen and nourishment circulation inside the body. Thrombocytes participate in the process of blood clotting ability preventing the excessive blood loss in case of injury or trauma. Blood cancer or leukemia makes the disorders occur inside the bone marrow. Due to such malfunction, the blood becomes saturated with the substantial quantity of leucocytes that do not perform their functions appropriately. The cancerous cells do not die unlike the healthy ones but start crowding in the body circulating within it and thus spreading the mutated cells. It results in the proliferation of the leukemic cells all over the body, including various vital organs and lymphatic nodes.
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Leukemia is “defined as either acute or chronic” depending on the extent of aggressiveness of the disease and “as either myelogenous or lymphocytic” depending on the source of leukemic cells (“Encyclopedia Britannica,” 2016). Acute leukemia is characterized by the availability of a substantial quantity of immature cancerous cells called blasts, which are incapable to function properly. It progresses rapidly and can be distinctive in its clinical manifestations. Chronic leukemia involves more mature cells that are capable of replicating and getting accumulated at a slow speed temporally performing their functions. This type of leukemia is hardly detectable due to being asymptomatic at the early stages. It is less aggressive, but it progresses with a rising number of malignant cells participating in blood circulation.
The way “how the cells replace the normal blood and marrow cells” also differentiates various types of leukemia besides the rate factor at which leukemia progresses (“The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society,” 2016). On this ground, leukemia is also classified into lymphoid and myeloid forms. According to it, there are four main types of the disease as acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), acute myeloid leukemia (AML), chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), and chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). All four leukemia types have one common feature – they begin in the bone marrow cell. If lymphocytes become affected, then one deals with lymphoid leukemia. This leukemia “affects the lymphoid cells (lymphocytes), which form lymphoid or lymphatic tissue” (“Mayo Clinic Staff,” 2016). If myeloid cells become abnormal, then it is myeloid leukemia. Additionally, there are other subtypes of the indicated leukemia variations. The classification of leukemia depends on the maturity level and sizes of the cancerous cells. For example, chronic lymphocytic leukemia is associated with defective splitting of lymphocytes in the bone marrow and their inadequate maturation. Chronic myelogenous leukemia “involves the pluripotent myeloid stem cells and”, therefore, “interferes with the maturation of granulocytes, erythrocytes, and thrombocytes” (“Pathophysiology of Leukemia”, 2016).
Nowadays, there is still no exact answer as to what causes leukemia. However, the health care providers outlined definite predisposing factors that increase the chance of acquiring the disease under consideration. Long-lasting exposure to radiation, close contact with the chemicals and toxins, previous cancerous condition joint with previous chemotherapy, some genetic disorders, and excessive smoking are the primary causative agents for leukemia. Furthermore, some kinds of leukemia can have a viral nature. Human T-cell leukemia virus-1 (HTVL-1) causes chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Epstein Barr virus can make the blood cells mutate and cause leukemia as well. Patients suffering from the myelodysplastic syndrome are at risk of acquiring acute myeloid leukemia.
Despite the variety in the leukemia classification, there are some symptoms that are common for most of its types. The majority of leukemia cases irrespectively of the kind manifest in swollen, but primarily painless lymphatic nodes, increased fatigue, weakness, vulnerability to communicable diseases and infections (herpes, bronchitis, pneumonia). It is frequently accompanied by fever, hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating), especially at nights, pain in the joints, abdominal pain, as well as increased liver and spleen. Leukemia patients suffer from a problematic blood clotting ability, paleness, decreased appetite, and consequent weight loss, nasal hemorrhage, easy bruising, skin irritations, and rash. Severe forms of leukemia cause breathlessness, confused consciousness, headaches, nausea, vomiting, motion dysfunction, lazy eyes, convulsions, and painful edemas due to accumulated cancerous cells in some definite areas of the body. If a person has similar symptoms, it is a reason to visit a doctor. Due to the rapid progression of acute leukemia, its symptoms are more explicit that is crucial for recognizing the disorder and making a diagnosis. Any delays in the treatment of this variation of leukemia can affect life expectancy. Chronic leukemia develops gradually, which is why its signs are vague.
Physical examination, complete blood count, as well as biochemical blood tests are helpful at the early stages of diagnosis. The abnormally high level of leukocytes or platelets (thrombocytes) is a reason to suspect leukemia. There are other analyses and researches that can confirm or disprove a final diagnosis. Bone marrow biopsy is required to identify the leukemia type. The hematologist or a cancer doctor may forward a patient for X-rays, computed tomography, magnetic resonance scanning, ultrasound of lymphatic nodes, liver, and kidneys. The indicated tests can give a detailed picture regarding the condition of the internal organs and tissues and show if these organs undergo any structural alterations. The right diagnosis depends on the integrity and the quality of the conducted analyses as well as the competence of the doctor.
Everybody is aware that any oncological condition demands complex and rather expensive treatment. Leukemia is not an exception. Treatment of this disease is complex “depending on the type of leukemia and other factors” such as the results of the medical check, severity of symptoms, general health condition, and earlier cancerous conditions (“Mayo Clinic Staff,” 2016). Once the leukemia is diagnosed, there should be any further delays in prescribing treatment. Nowadays, there are such treatment modalities as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, bone marrow transplant and biological therapy, which proved their efficiency in the disease-fighting process. Chemotherapy implies using medication involving combinations of strong cancer-killing or cancer-suppressing drugs. Radiation therapy is used for the elimination of leukemic cells and preventing further growth. Bone marrow transplantation means complete bone marrow replacement for a healthy one to readjust the immune system. Biological therapy is beneficial in detecting and attacking leukemic cells. However, it is meant for “keeping the disease under control” (“Mayo Clinic Staff,” 2016). Every mode of treatment can be effective in defeating leukemic cells and give positive dynamics and final results. The statistics data prove this fact taking into account “that as of January 1, 2014, there were 316,210 leukemia survivors living in the US” (“Cancer Treatment and Survivorship,” 2014). Despite the improved data, the clinicians and researchers keep on working out new strategies and medication to overcome leukemia and guarantee full recovery.
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In conclusion, all types of leukemia belong to the group of cancerous medical conditions that may result in serious complications or even life-threatening consequences. Leukemia is characterized by the increased number of leucocytes in the blood circulation or bone marrow. Blood-forming, as well as bone marrow cells, experience the substantial alterations that affect the blood system and the body in general. Leukemia can manifest in various symptoms and signs but can be asymptomatic as well. Such latent disease progression hinders making a diagnosis. Treatment of leukemia involves various advanced therapies to cure the disease. All treatment modalities demonstrate positive effects and a significant level of survivorship. Early diagnosis and proper competent treatment can guarantee the full recovery.