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Leukemia Facts

by Civilian Exposure

The following is a basic overview of leukemia. We’ll include more soon as we expand this section.

What is Leukemia?

Leukemia is a type of cancer that affects the blood and bone marrow, the spongy center of bones where our blood cells are formed. The disease develops when blood cells produced in the bone marrow grow out of control.

Leukemia is a treatable disease. Most treatments involve chemotherapy, medical radiation therapy, or hormone treatments. The rate of cure depends on the type of leukemia as well as the age of the patient. Children are more likely to be permanently cured than adults. Even when a complete cure is unlikely, most people with a chronic leukemia and many people with an acute leukemia can be successfully treated for years.

There is no single known cause for any of the different types of leukemia.

Types of Leukemia (from WebMD.com)

There are several different types of leukemia. In general, leukemia is grouped by how fast it gets worse and what kind of white blood cell it affects.

  • It may be acute or chronic. Acute leukemia gets worse very fast and may make you feel sick right away. Chronic leukemia gets worse slowly and may not cause symptoms for years.
  • It may be lymphocytic or myelogenous. Lymphocytic (or lymphoblastic) leukemia affects white blood cells called lymphocytes. Myelogenous leukemia affects white blood cells called myelocytes.

The four main types of leukemia are:

  • Acute lymphoblastic leukemia, or ALL.
  • Acute myelogenous leukemia, or AML.
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia, or CLL.
  • Chronic myelogenous leukemia, or CML.

In adults, chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) are the most common leukemias. In children, the most common leukemia is acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Childhood leukemias also include acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) and other myeloid leukemias, such as chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) and juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia (JMML).

There are less common leukemias, such as hairy cell leukemia. There are also subtypes of leukemia, such as acute promyelocytic leukemia (a subtype of AML).

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