Leukemia Cancer and its Symptoms

Leukaemia is a type of cancer which origins 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 that become mature blood cells over time. A blood stem cell may become a myeloid stem cell or a lymphoid stem cell.

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

There are no specific signs or symptoms of any type of leukaemia which would allow a doctor to make a diagnosis without laboratory tests. In every type of leukaemia, the symptoms are more commonly caused by lack of normal blood cells than by the presence of abnormal white cells. When the bone marrow becomes full of leukaemia cells, it is unable to produce the large numbers of normal blood cells which the body needs.

This leads to:

· Anaemia — due to lack of red blood cells

· Weakness, tiredness, shortness of breath, light-headedness

· Infections — due to lack of normal white blood cells

· Fever, malaise (general feeling of illness) and sweat

· Purpura (small bruises in skin), heavy periods, nosebleeds, bleeding gums

· Bleeding and bruising — due to lack of platelets

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