Leukemia is a type of cancer that affects the blood and bone marrow.
Many types of leukemia exist. Some forms of leukemia are more common in children. Other forms of leukemia occur mostly in adults.
Leukemia usually involves the white blood cells. Your white blood cells are potent infection fighters — they normally grow and divide in an orderly way, as your body needs them. But in people with leukemia, the bone marrow produces abnormal white blood cells, which don’t function properly.
Leukemia begins in a cell in the bone marrow. The cell undergoes a change and becomes a type of leukemia cell. Once the marrow cell undergoes a leukemic change, the leukemia cells may grow and survive better than normal cells. Over time, the leukemia cells crowd out or suppress the development of normal cells. The rate at which leukemia progresses and how the cells replace the normal blood and marrow cells are different with each type of leukemia.
How leukemia is classified:
Doctors classify leukemia based on its speed of progression and the type of cells involved.
The first type of classification is by how fast the leukemia progresses:
• Acute leukemia. In acute leukemia, the abnormal blood cells are immature blood cells (blasts). They can’t carry out their normal functions, and they multiply rapidly, so the disease worsens quickly. Acute leukemia requires aggressive, timely treatment.
• Chronic leukemia. There are many types of chronic leukemias. Some produce too many cells and some cause too few cells to be produced. Chronic leukemia involves more mature blood cells. These blood cells replicate or accumulate more slowly and can function normally for a period of time. Some forms of chronic leukemia initially produce no early symptoms and can go unnoticed or undiagnosed for years.
The second type of classification is by type of white blood cell affected:
• Lymphocytic leukemia. This type of leukemia affects the lymphoid cells (lymphocytes), which form lymphoid or lymphatic tissue. Lymphatic tissue makes up your immune system.
• Myelogenous (my-uh-LOHJ-uh-nus) leukemia. This type of leukemia affects the myeloid cells. Myeloid cells give rise to red blood cells, white blood cells and platelet-producing cells.
Types of leukemia:
The major types of leukemia are:
• Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL). This is the most common type of leukemia in young children. ALL can also occur in adults.
• Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). AML is a common type of leukemia. It occurs in children and adults. AML is the most common type of acute leukemia in adults.
• Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). With CLL, the most common chronic adult leukemia, you may feel well for years without needing treatment.
• Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML). This type of leukemia mainly affects adults. A person with CML may have few or no symptoms for months or years before entering a phase in which the leukemia cells grow more quickly.
• Other types. Other, rarer types of leukemia exist, including hairy cell leukemia, myelodysplastic syndromes and myeloproliferative disorders
In 2016, 60,140 people are expected to be diagnosed with leukemia.
There are an estimated 345,422 people living with, or in remission from, leukemia in the US.
The overall five-year relative survival rate for leukemia has more than quadrupled since 1960.
Click on the links below for more information on leukemia:
Leukemia and Lymphoma Society
Alabama Gulf Coast Leukemia and Lymphoma Society