blood

What is leukemia?
Leukemia is a type of blood cancer. Blood is made up of different types of cells. These cells are made in the middle of your bones, in a part called the bone marrow.
When people have leukemia, their bone marrow makes abnormal blood cells instead of normal blood cells. These abnormal blood cells grow out of control, get into the blood, and travel around the body. Sometimes, these cells collect in certain parts of the body. When the bone marrow makes abnormal blood cells, it does not make the normal blood cells a person’s body needs. This can cause symptoms.
There are different types of leukemia. Some types grow very slowly, and others grow much faster. Sometimes, people have a type of leukemia that is slow-growing at first and later becomes fast-growing.

What are the symptoms of leukemia?

Leukemia does not always cause symptoms, especially at first. When it does cause symptoms, the most common ones include:

  • Feeling very tired and weak
  • Bleeding more easily than normal
  • Getting sick from infections more easily than normal

These symptoms can also be caused by conditions that are not leukemia. But if you have these symptoms, you should let your doctor or nurse know.

Is there a test for leukemia?

Yes. Your doctor or nurse can use different tests to diagnose leukemia. These include:

  • Blood tests
  • Bone marrow biopsy – A doctor will take a very small sample of the bone marrow. Then another doctor will look at the cells under a microscope to see if cancer cells are present

Your doctor/nurse will also do an examination and ask about your symptoms.

How is leukemia treated?

Doctors can treat leukemia in different ways. The right treatment for you will depend on the type of leukemia you have, where it has spread, your age, and your other health problems.
Treatment for leukemia can include one or more of the following:

  • Chemotherapy – Chemotherapy is the term doctors use to describe a group of medicines that kill cancer cells
  • Radiation therapy – Radiation kills cancer cells
  • Bone marrow transplant – This treatment replaces cells in the bone marrow that are killed by chemotherapy or radiation. These “donor” cells can come from different places, including:
  • You – your cells can be taken out of your bone marrow before your treatment is completed and put back in after you have completed chemotherapy or radiation treatment
  • People who are related to you, and whose blood matches yours
  • Blood (which matches yours) from a newborn baby’s umbilical cord
  • Surgery – Sometimes, treatment includes surgery to remove an organ called the spleen.

What happens after treatment?

After treatment, you will be examined often like regular follow up tests which includes talking to your doctor, examinations, and blood tests. Sometimes, the doctor will also do a bone marrow biopsy.

What happens if the leukemia comes back?

If the leukemia comes back, you might have more chemotherapy, radiation, or bone marrow transplantation.

What else should I do?

It is important to follow all your doctors’ instructions about visits and tests. It’s also important to talk to your doctor about any side effects or problems you have during treatment.
Getting treated for leukemia involves making many choices, such as what treatment to have and when.
Always let your doctors and nurses know how you feel about a treatment. Any time you are offered a treatment, ask:

  • What are the benefits of this treatment? Is it likely to help me live longer? Will it reduce or prevent symptoms?
  • What are the downsides to this treatment?
  • Are there other options besides this treatment?
  • What happens if I do not have this treatment?

What is chronic lymphocytic leukemia?

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia, called “CLL,” is a type of blood cancer that usually grows very slowly.
Blood is made up of different types of cells. These cells are made in the middle of your bones, in a part called the bone marrow. When people have CLL, their bone marrow makes abnormal blood cells. These abnormal blood cells grow out of control, get into the blood, and travel around the body. Sometimes, these cells collect in certain parts of the body.
When the bone marrow makes abnormal blood cells, it does not make enough of the normal blood cells a person’s body needs. This can cause symptoms of CLL.

Can cervical cancer be prevented?

In many cases, yes. Almost all cervical cancer is caused by a virus called HPV (human papillomavirus) that is spread through skin-to-skin contact and sex. Vaccines (shots) that prevent people from getting infected with HPV are now available. Ask your doctor if and when you should get an HPV vaccine. This vaccine is available for men and women, and works best if a person receives it before he or she starts having sex.
When CLL does cause symptoms, the most common ones are:

  • Feeling very tired and weak
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck, under the arm, or in the groin – Lymph nodes are pea-shaped organs that are part of the body’s infection-fighting system.
  • Getting sick from infections more easily than normal
  • Fevers, drenching sweats at night, and losing weight without trying to

Is there a test for CLL?

Yes. Your doctor will examine you with blood tests. He or she might also do a bone marrow biopsy. For this test, a doctor takes a very small sample of the bone marrow. Then another doctor will look at the cells under a microscope to see if abnormal (cancer) cells are present.

How is CLL treated?

Doctors can treat CLL in different ways. Your doctor might not treat your CLL right away if it is slow-growing and not causing any symptoms. But your doctor will watch your CLL closely by doing certain examinations and blood tests until treatment is needed.
Most patients with CLL are treated with chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is the term doctors use to describe a group of medicines that kill cancer cells. There are many different chemotherapy drugs that are used to treat CLL. Your doctor will work with you to choose the ones that are right for you.
When people have chemotherapy, they can get sick from infections more easily than normal. Because of this, it’s important to wash your hands often and stay away from people who are sick. Let your doctor or nurse know right away if you get a fever.

What happens after treatment?

After treatment, you will be examined often to see if the cancer comes back. Regular follow-ups include talking to your doctor, examinations and blood tests. Sometimes, your doctor will also do a bone marrow biopsy.

What happens if the CLL comes back?

If the CLL comes back, your doctor will talk to you about other possible treatments.