Tag Archives: Cancer of the blood

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is a type of cancer of the blood and bone marrow — the spongy tissue inside bones where blood cells are made. It’s called chronic leukemia because it progresses more slowly than acute leukemia. It’s called lymphocytic leukemia because it affects a group of white blood cells called lymphocytes, which typically fight infection.

Under normal circumstances, your bone marrow produces immature cells (stem cells) in a controlled way, and they mature and specialize into the various types of blood cells, as needed. When these cells grow old, they die naturally and are replaced by new cells, in a continuous cycle. In chronic lymphocytic leukemia, this process goes awry. The bone marrow produces abnormal lymphocytes. These cells don’t fully mature or die normally. Over time, they accumulate in large numbers and eventually crowd out other healthy cells, leaving people with chronic lymphocytic leukemia vulnerable to infection and other life-threatening problems.

Each year, about 10,000 people in the United States receive a diagnosis of chronic lymphocytic leukemia. A decade ago, doctors thought chronic lymphocytic leukemia always affected older adults and rarely posed enough risk to warrant cancer treatments, so “watchful waiting” was the treatment of choice. Today, new laboratory tests, new medications and a new understanding of chronic lymphocytic leukemia have dramatically changed the rules for treatment of this type of leukemia. Doctors now know that chronic lymphocytic leukemia can behave aggressively in some people. Although watchful waiting is still the best option for some people, new medications are helping people diagnosed with a more aggressive form of chronic lymphocytic leukemia at a younger age.

Symptoms

At first, chronic lymphocytic leukemia may cause no signs or symptoms. When signs and symptoms are present in the early phases of the disease, they are often vague and unspecific and include: Continue reading Chronic lymphocytic leukemia

Cancer of the blood and bone marrow – Acute lymphocytic leukemia

Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) is a type of cancer of the blood and bone marrow — the spongy tissue inside bones where blood cells are made.

It’s called acute leukemia because it progresses rapidly and affects immature blood cells, rather than mature ones. It’s called lymphocytic leukemia because it affects a group of white blood cells called lymphocytes, which normally fight infection. Acute lymphocytic leukemia is also known as acute lymphoblastic leukemia and acute childhood leukemia.

Normally, your bone marrow produces immature cells (stem cells) in a controlled way, and they mature and specialize into the various types of blood cells, as needed. In people with acute lymphocytic leukemia, this production process goes awry. Large numbers of immature, abnormal lymphocytes are produced and released into the bloodstream. These abnormal cells multiply rapidly and can crowd out healthy blood cells, leaving you vulnerable to infection and easy bleeding. Leukemic cells can also collect in certain areas of the body, including the central nervous system and spinal cord, which can cause serious problems.

Acute lymphocytic leukemia is the most common type of cancer in children; it also occurs in adults. It worsens quickly if not treated, but it usually responds well to treatment.

Symptoms

General signs and symptoms of the early stages of acute lymphocytic leukemia may mimic signs and symptoms of the flu or other common diseases. These include: Continue reading Cancer of the blood and bone marrow – Acute lymphocytic leukemia