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Leukemia

Leukaemia (Greek “white blood”) is a cancer of the blood or bone marrow and is characterized by an abnormal proliferation of leukocytes.

This extremely brief introduction to leukaemia has omitted a discussion on management. This is a very complex subject the details of which are unlikely to be needed for finals.

Symptoms

Leukocytes may be suppressed or dysfunctional causing depressed immune function and infections.

Damage to the bone marrow, by way of displacing the normal bone marrow cells with higher numbers of immature white blood cells, results in a deficiency of blood platelets, causing bruising, bleeding and petechiae. Insufficient production of erythrocytes causes symptoms of anaemia.

Other related symptoms include

Types

Acute/Chronic

Leukemia is clinically and pathologically split into its acute and chronic forms.

Acute leukemia is characterized by the rapid proliferation of immature blood cells. Acute forms of leukemia often occur in children and young adults. There is rapid progression and accumulation of the malignant cells. Central nervous system involvement is uncommon, though the disease occasionally causes cranial nerve palsies.

Chronic leukemia is distinguished by the excessive build up of relatively mature, but still abnormal, blood cells. It typically takes months to years to progress. Chronic leukemia mostly occurs in older people but can theoretically occur in any age group. Whereas acute leukemia must be treated immediately, chronic forms are sometimes monitored for some time before treatment to ensure maximum effectiveness of therapy.

Lymphocytic/lymphoblastic

Furthermore, the diseases are classified into lymphocytic or lymphoblastic. Lymphocytic leukaemia indicates the change occurs in immature lymphocytes, whilst myelogenous (or myeloid) leukaemia indicates the chand occured in immature erythrocytes.

Summary of classification


Acute
Chronic
Lymphocytic
Acute lymphocytic leukemia (Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, or ALL) is the most common type of leukemia in young children. This disease also affects adults, especially those age 65 and older.  
Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) most often affects adults over the age of 55. It sometimes occurs in younger adults, but it almost never affects children.
Myeloid
Acute myelogenous leukemia (also known as Acute Myeloid Leukemia, or AML) occurs more commonly in adults than in children.
Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) occurs mainly in adults. A very small number of children also develop this disease.
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