September is Leukemia and Lymphoma Awareness month. According to the National Cancer Institute, the year 2013 will see roughly 50,000 new cases of leukemia and close to 80,000 new lymphoma diagnoses in the United States. These numbers are substantial, but arming yourself with knowledge of these diseases can help bring awareness to the fight against leukemia and lymphoma.
Q. What is leukemia?A. Leukemia is an abnormal overgrowth of white blood cells typically originating in the bone marrow with secondary spillover into the blood stream leading to high white blood cell counts – (leuk = white, emia = blood).
There are multiple forms of leukemia, but the four basic groups are:* Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL). This type of leukemia is the most common form in children. Adults can also get ALL, and it’s often curable with chemotherapy.* Acute myeloid leukemia (AML). This common form of leukemia affects children and adults. This is the most typical form of acute leukemia in adults. Most subtypes are more difficult to cure with chemo alone, particularly in the elderly.* Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). The most common form of chronic adult leukemia, CLL may not require treatment for decades.* Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). Uncommon in children, this leukemia most likely affects adults. People with CML may be asymptomatic for months or years before the condition worsens. Treatment has changed dramatically from receiving someone else’s blood and immune stem cells to oral tablets with “targeted drugs.”
Q. What are the symptoms of leukemia?A. Although signs and symptoms of leukemia vary based on the type of disease, there are some similar symptoms, including:* Anemia that leads to pale skin* Unexplained bleeding* Bruising* Infections* Fatigue* Night sweats* Red spotting of the skin * Shortness of breath* Weakness* Weight loss
If you notice these symptoms, contact your health care provider. Other conditions may produce similar symptoms, so it’s always best to seek expert medical advice to determine the cause.