Leukemia is a type of cancer targeting the body’s blood-forming tissues, such as the lymphatic system and bone marrow. The health condition appears in both children and adults in the whole world. Leukemia attacks the white blood cells in charge of resisting infections, causing them to malfunction. When the blood cancer impair human bone marrow, the organs creates excess malfunctioned white blood cells. The increased number of white blood cells crowd platelets and the red blood cells that the body requires for normal functioning. The first case of leukemia was recorded by Doctor John Hughes Bennett in October 1845 (Cancer Facts & Statistics). Although the disease can be treated, the treatment process can be complex. Leukemia patients are affected differently and experience varied symptoms depending on various types of blood cancer such as acute and chronic lymphocytic and acute and chronic myelogenous. Thus, leukemia is classified into different forms but is treatable.
Leukemia statistics indicate that the rate of the disease and death is rising every year. This type of cancer causes at least 20,000 deaths in the United States every year (Cancer Facts & Statistics). As of 2021, America has recorded at least 61,090 new cases of leukemia and 23,660 deaths, accounting for a 14.2% incidence rate of cases between 2013 and 2017 (Cancer Facts & Statistics). The death rate between 2014 and 2018 was 6.3% and research indicates that new cases were equally high 2017 (Cancer Facts & Statistics). In terms of sex, for the year 2021at least 35,530 were men and 25,560 were females. The number of deaths amongst men was also high with at least 13,900 men and 9,760 women dead (Cancer Facts & Statistics). In terms of ethnicity, figure 1 shows a high perverseness of leukemia amongst non-Hispanic whites and low prevalence in Asians and Pacific Islanders. Florida leads with the highest number of new leukemia cases with 6,660 in 2021. Other states included California with 5,830, Texas 4,820, New York 4,110, and Pennsylvania 2,690. In terms of death, California recorded 2,300, Florida 1,930, Texas 1,710, and New York 1,410 (Cancer Facts & Statistics). Delaware is the least affected with only 200 new cases and 90 deaths in 2021.
Different types of leukemia show varied signs and symptoms which might be noticeable in the early stages of the disease. Some of the general symptoms include fatigue or body weakness. Bleeding easily, bruising, chills or fever, headaches, vomiting, seizures, and high sweat are also part of the signs. Blood cancer patients may experience weight loss, severe and recurrent infections bone or joint pain, shortness of breath, and lymph nodes swelling. Madmoli provides other additional symptoms including tiny red patches on the skin and recurrent nose bleeding (3). These leukemia symptoms may vary from one patient to another.
Leukemia occurs when blood cells acquire changes or mutate from their DNA or genetic material. Madmoli state that human cell contains a DNA which dictates to the body what to do (2). The DNA informs the cell to grow at a certain rate and die at a determined time. In leukemia, the cell mutation occurs, it directs the cells to continue growing and dividing. Genetic disorders are among the risk factors for developing blood cancer. Disorders such down syndrome tend to play role in forming leukemia (Madmoli 4). Another major factor is a prior history of cancer treatment as some types of chemo and radiation therapy contribute to the development of cancer (Madmoli 6). A family history of leukemia as it can put an increased risk for the condition. Tobacco consumption and exposure to chemicals such as benzene; found in gasoline also increase the risk of leukemia (Madmoli 6).
Common Diagnostic Measures
People with leukemia may not show signs, especially in the early stages. Thus doctors might find the disease in normal blood tests. However, if individuals exhibit signs and symptoms of blood cancer, three major tests may be done to determine whether they have cancer. The physical exam requires the doctor to look for existing signs of leukemia (Cancer Facts & Statistics). Symptoms like pale skin caused by anemia, enlargement of the spleen and liver, and swollen lymph are great signs of the disorder. Thus, the doctor engineers a blood test on the patient.
When doing a blood test, the doctor draws the patient blood from the bone marrow for examination. By looking at the blood, the professional determines whether it has leukemia. The doctor looks for the presence of platelets or abnormal levels of white or red blood cells which indicate there is leukemia. Furthermore, a blood test could indicate the presence of leukemia cells although not all types of the disease cause leukemia cells to circulate in the blood. Other times, the leukemia cells hide in the bone marrow, thus requiring a bone marrow exam.
Doctors may recommend a procedure to take a sample of bone marrow tissues from the hip bone. In a bone marrow test, a long needle is used to remove some bone marrow. The sample is then sent for further examination in the laboratory whereby leukemia cells are tested (Madmoli 6). The specialized leukemia cell tests may show elements to be considered in the treatment options of the disease. After a bone marrow biopsy is done, a second procedure to remove enclosed marrow and pieces of bone tissue is done. The results found direct the doctor on the next treatment move to make.
Various treatments for blood cancer are available but the procedure is dependent on many factors. The medical professionals decide on the most suitable treatment for leukemia depending on health, leukemia type, and age of the patient. Some of the types of treatment used to fight leukemia include chemotherapy, immunotherapy, targeted therapy, radiation therapy, bone marrow transplant, engineering immune cells, and clinical trials.
Chemotherapy is the primary form of treatment for blood cancer alongside other many types of cancers. The drug treatments employ chemicals to destroy leukemia cells in various tissues. According to Kato and Manabe, depending on the type of this condition, either a single or combination of drugs is administered to the patient (8). The administration occurs either through pills or injection directly to the vein.
Targeted therapy use drugs to focus on particular abnormalities present in the cancer cells. For example, the leukemia cells may have platelets hence the drugs are used to block the tissues. Furthermore, by stopping the found abnormalities, the drug treatment could bring cancer patient to less chances of death. The examiners may then test the leukemia cells to see if the targeted therapy is working positively (Cancer Facts & Statistics). If the abnormalities are still found, the treatment is continued or another method is considered.
Radiation treatment uses X-rays and other high-energy beams to destroy cancer cells hence stopping their growth. During the procedure, an energy beam of radiation is directed at a particular part of the body where there are leukemia cells. The direct ignition is done with the patient lying down on a table. Kato and Manabe mention that depending on the cancer cell distribution, the radiation may be focused on one area or all over the body (9). Moreover, the radiation process could be done in preparation for a bone marrow transplant.
Bone Marrow Transplant
Stem cell or bone marrow transplant aids in reestablishing healthy stem cells. The infected bone marrow is removed and the healthy stem cells create new bone marrow. Kato and Manabe state that before doing a bone marrow transplant, the patient receives high doses of radiation or chemotherapy to damage cancer-producing bone marrow (4). The patient is then given an infusion of blood-forming stem cells to help recreate bone marrow. They used stem cells that could be from within the patients’ bodies or from donors.
Immunotherapy is a method of treating leukemia by the use of the immune system. The human immune system is responsible for fighting diseases but that may not happen in cancer cases. The system might not attack cancer because leukemia cells build proteins that help them hide from the immune cells tested (Madmoli 6). Immunotherapy interferes with that process, allowing the immune system to fight cancer. The immune system is made up of white blood cells, tissues, and organs of the lymph system. This method works best when cancer has infected the lymphatic system. Immunotherapy is the major biological treatment for cancer.
Engineering Immune Cells
Engineering immune cells to destroy blood cancer is a specialized treatment involving chimeric antigen receptors. The CAR-T cell therapy collects body’s germ-fighting T-cells and engineers them to damage cancer then infuse them back to the body. CAR-T cell treatment is also another therapy option for certain types of leukemia (Cancer Facts & Statistics). Clinical trials for treating cancer are research performed to discover contemporary cancer treatments and up to date ways of deploying existing treatments. Even though clinical trials offer patients with opportunities to try recent treatment formulas, their results might not be established.
There are only a few academic researches for leukemia in general. Most experts are researching specific types of leukemia, hence leaving a gap in learning about the disease in general. The only existing study about blood cancer covering the general topic is in blogs and non-academic sources. Therefore, researchers need to cover the study of leukemia as a bulk topic in academic sources. That will help many students and learners of leukemia and other types of cancers.
Leukemia is a blood cancer that affects the whole of human body. The disease affects both children and adults with majority being non-Hispanic whites in the U.S. Blood tests and bone marrow exam are among the diagnosing methods used for leukemia. Treatment varies depending on the type of blood cancer but the common ones include chemotherapy, targeted therapy, and radiation therapy. More study about the topic needs to be covered and more so in general for the academic sources.
“Cancer Facts & Statistics.” American Cancer Society | Cancer Facts & Statistics. n.d. Web.
Kato, Motohiro, and Manabe, Atsushi. “Treatment and Biology of Pediatric Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.” Pediatrics International, vol. 60, no. 1, 2018, pp. 4-12. Web.
Madmoli, Mostafa. “Clinical and Laboratory Finding in Children with Leukemia: A Systematic Review.” International Journal of Research Studies in Science, Engineering and Technology, vol. 5, no. 10, 2018, pp. 1-6. Web.