What is Leukemia?

 Leukemia is cancer of the blood cells that occurs when the cells become abnormal and grow out of control, eventually outnumbering the healthy blood cells. Leukemia begins in the bone marrow where the body produces blood cells. The disease can be either acute (brief and severe) or chronic (of long duration), and there are several types of leukemia, including:

  • Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL)
  • Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML)
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)
  • Chronic myelogenous leukemia(CML)
  • Hairy cell leukemia (HCL)

Symptoms of Leukemia

Leukemia symptoms vary depending on the type of leukemia and location in the body of the cancer cells. However, in general, leukemia symptoms include:

  • Fever and night sweats
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Minor cuts that heal slowly
  • Feeling weak or tired
  • Headache
  • Pale skin
  • Nosebleeds
  • Bleeding gums
  • Small red spots under the skin

Causes and Risk Factors for Leukemia

Leukemia is most common in people over 60-years-old. Chemotherapy or radiation therapy for a previous cancer may increase the risk of developing the disease. Some diseases such as Down syndrome and myelodysplastic syndrome as well as exposure to benzene and tobacco smoke are also thought to be related to leukemia. Additionally, leukemia is the most common cancer in children from infancy to age seven. It is possible to reduce risk of leukemia by avoiding exposure to benzene, high levels of radiation, and by not smoking.

Treatments for Leukemia

We have a long history of excellence in the research and treatment of hematologic cancers, especially in leukemia. Biological therapy, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, stem cell transplantation, and targeted therapy are potential leukemia treatments. Some of these treatments are made available through clinical trial participation.