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chronic-leukaemia

Chronic Leukaemia

What is Chronic Leukaemia?

Leukaemia is a malignancy marked by the abnormal growth of unhealthy and dysfunctional white blood cells in a person’s body, which soon outnumber the red blood cells and platelets. White blood cells form a vital component of our immune system, however, in patient’s suffering from leukaemia, these do not function as they normally should, and instead, start piling up. The onset of the cancer can either be acute or chronic. Chronic leukaemia progresses at a very slow pace with almost negligible symptoms that become adverse gradually. This is further classified into two types:

  • Chronic myelogenous leukaemia or CML – The malignancy primarily affects adults and comes with a 5-year survival rate of 66.9 per cent.
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia or CLL – The malignancy predominantly affects people over 55 years of age and is very rare in children. It comes with a 5-year survival rate of 83.2 per cent

What are the symptoms that you need to look out for?

Symptoms associated with chronic leukaemia include:

  • Excessive sweating
  • General body weakness and fatigue
  • Unintended loss of weight
  • Pain and tenderness in the pain
  • Swelling in the lymph nodes
  • Liver or spleen enlargement
  • Petechiae, which is marked by red spots on the skin
  • Increased vulnerability to bleeding and bruising
  • Fever and chills
  • Recurrent infections

What causes Chronic Leukaemia?

Chronic leukaemia is believed to be a result of undesired genetic mutations in the DNA of the white blood cells which compel them to divide and grow uncontrollably. These changes can be triggered by a variety of factors.

What are the various risk factors associated with Leukaemia?

Various different factors that can elevate your risks of developing leukaemia include:

  • Having a family history of the malignancy
  • Excessive smoking
  • Certain genetic disorders like Down Syndrome
  • Myelodysplastic syndrome and other blood disorders
  • Undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy for some other cancer
  • Over-exposure to high-intensity radiations
  • Exposure to carcinogenic chemicals like benzene

Screening and diagnosis

Various modalities available for the diagnosis of chronic leukaemia include:

  • Physical examination – The doctor will assess the physical signs such as swollen lymph nodes or spleen enlargement, and go through your medical history.
  • Blood test – Blood investigations help to detect any abnormality in the count of red blood cells, white blood cells and blood platelets.
  • Bone marrow test – This involves the thorough examination of a sample of bone marrow collected from the patient’s hip bone.
  • Lumbar puncture – A sample of the spinal fluid is collected and assessed to figure out whether the cancer has spread to the central nervous system
  • Liver function test – This helps to determine whether the cancer has reached the liver or not.

The treatment for leukaemia depends upon the stage and type of the cancer. This includes:

  • Chemotherapy – It uses a single drug or a combination of drugs to target unhealthy and diseased cells.
  • Radiation energy – It uses high-intensity radiation beams to target and kill the cancerous cells in a specific area of the body.
  • Stem cell transplantation – It refers to the replacement of the damaged and diseased bone marrow with healthy bone marrow taken from a donor or your own body
  • Biological immune therapy – The therapy aims at helping your immune system recognize all the unhealthy cells and target them.
  • Targeted therapy – It uses certain drugs to target certain weaknesses in the diseased cells and block them.

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