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Leukemia Powered By Docstoc


  Nikki Hoheisel

       According to the Mayo Clinic Leukemia is a cancer of the body’s blood-forming

tissues, including the bone marrow and the lymphatic system. Throughout this paper I

will introduce a brief history, causes, symptoms, treatments and how you can even help

prevent from getting this disease. Leukemia has troubled many people, though there is

no exact explanation of what causes Leukemia, throughout history there have been

many discoveries to treat it. Though there may not be symptoms with certain types of

the disease and symptoms are different with everyone, there are simple blood tests that

can detect leukemia during doctor visits. I will now take you through all the different

troubles and treatments that go along with the disease Leukemia.

       Cancer was first discovered by the Greeks in the 4th or 5th century. John Hughes

Benett was the first man to actually diagnose Leukemia in 1845. The word Leukemia

was made by putting the two Greek words leukos and aima together. Leukos meaning

white and aima meaning blood. Doctors discovered and classified 4 different types of

leukemia in 1913. The four different types of Leukemia are chronic Lymphocytic

Leukemia (CLL), Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML), Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia

(ALL), and Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) according to the National Cancer Institute.

One of the first treatments for Leukemia was arsenic and in some cases is still used

today with certain types of the disease says Magill’s Medical Guide. In 1970 there was a

big jump for people that had been diagnosed with Leukemia with a cure being found for

it. In fact two decades later the success rate had gone up to 70%. People that have a

family history are much more likely to end up with childhood Leukemia. Today the

increase of Childhood Leukemia is pointed to the number of women that are choosing to

breastfeed their children. The baby’s immune system comes in contact with antibodies

from the mother’s body and evolves to fight infections after birth (Magill’s Medical


       According to many experts at the Cancer Institute Leukemia can be attributed to

many different causes or suspected causes. Some of these would be viruses (HTLV-1

and HIV), radiation, Benzene and some petrochemicals, Alkylating chemotherapy

agents used in previous cancers, maternal fetal transmission (which is extremely rare),

Some hair dyes, Down’s Syndrome, electromagnetic energy, and genetic

predisposition. People with HTLV-1 and HIV have an increased risk of adult T-cell

Leukemia. It has also been said that twins had a higher risk of developing Leukemia

because of a single gene or multiple genes. People that have survived atomic

explosions have been exposed to a very high amount of radiation which increases the

risk of Leukemia. Benzene is used widely throughout the chemical industry. Benzene

can cause both Chronic Myeloid Leukemia and Acute Leukemia. This chemical is also

bound in gasoline and cigarette smoke.

       Some people find out they have leukemia by going to the doctor because they

are feeling sick (acute) and others may find out from a routine blood test (chronic). The

people that go to their doctor due to feeling sick may have headaches, vomiting,

confusion, loss of muscle control, or seizures. There are also symptoms that go along

with both chronic and acute leukemia. These are swollen lymph nodes that usually don’t

hurt fevers or night sweats, frequent infections, feeling weak or tired, bleeding and

bruising easily, swelling or discomfort in the abdomen, weight loss for no apparent

reason and pain in the bones or joints. Though these can be symptoms of Leukemia

there could also be many others health problems that could cause the same symptoms,

so it is very important to contact your physician for a checkup and testing (Frederich).

       Nordqvist on Medical News Today states that there are many different treatment

options that can be used in the fight against Leukemia. The type of treatment that you

should choose depends mostly on a few different factors. These factors being whether

you have Chronic or Acute Leukemia, your age, and whether Leukemia cells had been

found in your cerebrospinal fluid. The options that are out there to choose from are

watchful waiting, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, radiation therapy, and stem cell

transplant. People that have acute leukemia need to be treated as soon as possible,

with the goal of destroying the signs and symptoms of Leukemia at an early stage. At

this point the Leukemia is in remission and the treatment then changes. This type of

therapy is called consolidation therapy and or maintenance therapy. The treatment

options change if a person has been diagnosed with Chronic Leukemia. Nordqvist also

states that if there are no signs or symptoms of the disease the person may not need to

seek cancer treatment. Their doctor will watch over the patient’s health closely to make

sure that there are no changes. This is called watchful waiting. With this treatment

option a patient can avoid the side effects of treatment until they start having symptoms.

If watchful waiting is an agreed option for you, an example of what to expect would be

regular checkups (every 2-3 months). Another treatment option widely used with

patients that have Leukemia is Chemotherapy. Depending on the type of Leukemia that

you have you may be given one single drug or a combination of different drugs. There

are many different ways that you can receive chemotherapy which include pills, an IV,

through a catheter, into the cerebrospinal fluid, into the spinal fluid, or under the scalp.

        Found on at the Cancer Institute, Chemotherapy is given in cycles most of the

time. There is a treatment period with each cycle and after the cycle is over there is a

rest period. There are many different places you can receive chemotherapy. Some

receive treatment at home and others receive treatment in a clinic or even have to stay

in the hospital for their chemotherapy treatment. Some of the negative side effects of

chemotherapy are that this treatment can also harm normal cells in the body. The cells

that chemotherapy has a harmful effect on are blood cells, cells in the hair roots, and

sperm or egg cells. Chemotherapy lowers the number of blood cells in the body making

it harder for the patient’s body to fight off infection, this can also cause them to bleed or

bruise and also feel very tired and weak. If this problem occurs with a patient their

health care provider will stop chemotherapy for the time being or there are also

medications that can help increase the number of blood cells the body makes.

Throughout the chemotherapy a patient will lose their hair, though the hair will grow

back it may be a different color or texture, or not as full. The chemotherapy can also

cause a poor appetite, nausea and vomiting, and diarrhea. Chemotherapy can also

cause infertility in men and women. Though adult men and women may have damage

to their sperm cells and ovaries, children seem to grow older and have normal fertility.

Depending on the drugs that the children were given and the doses some have become


        Mayo Clinic informs people that Targeted therapy is therapy that focuses on

blocking the growth of leukemia cells. This treatment may also be used to target certain

abnormal proteins that stimulate the growth of Leukemia. Some of the side effects of

targeted therapy are bloating, swelling, and sudden weight gain, diarrhea, rashes, and

muscle cramps can also be a side effect of this treatment option. Biological therapy

works by increasing the body’s natural defense to Leukemia. There are many different

types of biological treatment. Two types are monoclonal antibodies and interferon. One

kind of monoclonal antibody is given to the patient through IV and carries a toxin that

actually kills the leukemia cells. Another type helps the immune system destroy the

Leukemia cells on its own. Interferon is a drug that is injected under the patients muscle

or skin and can slow the growth of leukemia. The side effects that come from biological

therapy differ from patient to patient and also depend on what drugs have been taken.

These side effects include swelling at the injection point, weakness, fever, and

headaches or muscle aches.

       Also found on the Mayo Clinic website, when the process of using high energy

rays is used to kill Leukemia this is called radiation therapy. The places that radiation

therapy is done are hospitals and clinics. Radiation therapy can be received from a

large machine that is aimed at the parts of the body where Leukemia cells have

gathered. Radiation takes place for several weeks, 5 times a week. There is also

radiation that can be projected over the whole body. Sometimes before stem cell

transplants patients are given radiation treatment up to twice a day for a few days. The

side effects of radiation therapy range from nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, redness and

dryness of the areas treated. Patients may also lose the hair in the treated parts of their

body. People who have undergone radiation therapy will be very tired and rest is an

important thing when going through this treatment.

       Certain people with Leukemia can receive a stem cell transplant. This allows

people to undergo high doses of drugs, radiation or both. With such high doses a stem

cell transplant is needed because both Leukemia cells and normal cells are destroyed in

the marrow. After the high dose therapy the healthy stem cells are introduced back into

the body through a large vein. The stem cells develop new healthy blood cells to

replace the ones destroyed during the treatment. Stem cells can come from the patient,

a family member or other donor or from an identical twin. The patient’s stem cells can

be taken from them and treated for Leukemia then frozen. After the patient has a high

dose treatment the stem cells can be thawed and reintroduced into the body. Blood

tests have to be done when receiving stem cells from donor to see how close the match

is. The best is if the patient has an identical twin (Fredrich, 2008)

       Though there is no known way of preventing Leukemia, there are certain things

that should be avoided that could increase the risk of getting Leukemia. High doses of

radiation, smoking and other tobacco products should be avoided.

       I hope that this journey through the history, causes, symptoms, treatments, and

possible ways to help prevent Leukemia have been informative. I myself have learned

certain things that I never knew before about this disease. It has been an up and down

ride through the path that Leukemia has run through history. I just hope that the

advances that have been made with Leukemia over the past 100 years continue to

move forward as they have been.


Cancer Institute. (2010). Leukemia. Retrieved from

Cancer Institute. (2010). What you need to know about leukemia .
    Retrieved from

Frederich, K.B. (2008). Leukemia. Pasedena, Ca: Salem Press Inc.

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