Movies and TV series get cancer wrong most of the time. They do a great job of planting false assumptions about cancers always being terminal or patients with cancer succumbing to it no matter what and whatnot. Some movies even go a step further and establish that there is no treatment for cancer. One such cancer that is widely popular in the entertainment industry is blood cancer.
Blood cancer is often seen as a terminal health condition to which the patient is going to succumb, sooner or later. However, this is not true. Blood cancer, or leukemia, is the cancer of white blood cells, which is a type of blood cell. Timely diagnosis and appropriate treatment can help in managing blood cancers successfully and, in some cases, cure them too.
HCG Cancer Hospital has a large team of hematologists and BMT specialists who have vast experience in providing the best blood cancer treatment. It is also one of the top cancer hospitals for the treatment of malignant blood disorders.
Here are 5 quick facts about leukemia that not many are aware of.
FACT 1: There Are Different Types of Leukemia
Not all leukemia cases are treated the same way. This is because there are different types of leukemia, and each type demands different treatment planning. The treatment plan will also vary based on each patient’s overall health status.
Leukemia is broadly classified into 4 types:
- Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL): This type of leukemia is more common in children. It can arise from T-lymphocytes or B-lymphocytes. This condition will need immediate treatment.
- Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML): AML occurs when the myeloid cells start dividing abnormally. Myeloid cells are responsible for the production of red blood cells, certain white blood cells (not lymphocytes), and platelets. This condition is more common in adults and will need prompt medical attention.
- Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL): CLL occurs when lymphocytes begin dividingabnormally. This condition progresses at a slower rate and may not require immediate treatment. This condition is more common in older adults.
- Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML): Abnormal division of myeloid cells leads to CML. Unlike AML, CML progresses at a slower rate. Patients with CML live for many years.
FACT 2: Both Children and Adults Can Get Leukemia
Leukemia is found to be common in both adults and children. However, some types are more common in children, and some types are more common in adults. Acute leukemias are more common in children, whereas chronic leukemias are more common in adults.
The risk factors for leukemia include smoking, exposure to certain chemicals, history of chemotherapy treatment, radiation exposure, certain blood disorders, rare congenital diseases, family history, age, and being male.
The leukemia treatment plan is made based on the risk factors associated with the diagnosis, the leukemia type, the disease stage, the patient’s age, and the overall condition of the patient.
FACT 3: There is No Way to Prevent or Screen for Leukemia
Most of the risk factors associated with this condition cannot be controlled.
Having certain blood disorders, rare congenital disorders, a family history of leukemia, or having had chemotherapy in the past, along with aging and being male, are factors that patients cannot control. Therefore, there is no known way to prevent leukemia. However, certain measures like quitting tobacco and reducing exposure to hazardous chemicals like pesticides can help individuals reduce their leukemia risk.
Unlike breast cancer, colon cancer, or prostate cancer, there is no standardized screening protocol for leukemia. Despite consistent research in this area, no proper screening test exists for leukemia presently.
A complete blood count (CBC) test may help find out if the levels of WBC, RBC, and platelets are normal. In case they are not in the normal range, it is important to see a physician for appropriate medical attention.
FACT 4: Leukaemia is Treatable
Many assume that leukemia cannot be treated. However, this is not true. There are various options available for leukaemia treatment. The commonly recommended treatment options for leukemia include:
- Stem Cell Transplantation: This procedure replaces faulty stem cells with the healthy (leukemia-free) ones. Before stem cell transplantation, radiation therapy or chemotherapy is administered to kill the leukemia cells and the stem cells that are producing them. In many cases, this procedure can help patients achieve long-lasting remission.
- Chemotherapy: During chemotherapy, powerful chemo drugs are administered to destroy the leukemia cells in the body. These can be administered orally, intravenously, or through infusion.
- Radiation Therapy: Radiation therapy uses powerful X-ray or proton beams to destroy leukemia cells. Radiation treatments can target a single region of the body that has a high concentration of leukemia cells, or they can target the entire body (whole-body radiation therapy).
- Targeted Therapy: Targeted therapy is often recommended when standard treatments fail to work. This treatment targets specific anomalies that are found in cancer cells and destroys them. Since it specifically targets the cancer cells only, no healthy tissues are damaged during this treatment.
- Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy stimulates the patient’s own immune system to identify and destroy the leukemia cells. Immunotherapy may be recommended along with other treatments in leukemia patients.
Some leukemia types need immediate treatment, while for some leukemia types, immediate treatment is not necessary, and therefore, active surveillance or watchful waiting is recommended.
FACT 5: Leukemia has Good Survival Rates if Detected Early
Yes, if detected early, leukemia can be treated successfully, and patients can live for many years after their leukemia treatment.
Since there are no standardized screening methods for leukemia, individuals need to be mindful of the possible symptoms of leukemia.
The common symptoms of leukemia include fever and chills, bleeding, bruising, extreme weakness, unintentional weight loss, frequent infections, swollen lymph nodes, tiny red spots on the skin, and excessive sweating.
Having these symptoms does not necessarily indicate leukemia. However, when these symptoms last for more than 2 weeks, it is important to get tested.
At HCG Cancer Centre, we have a strong team of highly experienced hematologists, who are well-versed in accurately diagnosing leukemias and devising appropriate treatment plans for them. The blood cancer treatment plans made here specially focus on preserving the quality of life in patients during and after the treatment.
This article is intended to give you a better idea of what leukemia is all about. The most important thing to remember is that anyone with leukemia should not lose hope. Thanks to research and improved treatments, most adults and children diagnosed today can defeat leukemia and live a normal life.