Leukaemia (blood cancer) is any group of malignant diseases in which the bone marrow and other blood forming organs produce increased numbers of certain types of white blood cells which are immature or abnormal. Overproduction of these cells stops the production of normal white cells, red cells, and platelets.
Leukaemia is more common among children and teenagers representing 1 in every 3 cancer case each year. Patients’ life expectancy has increased significantly from 5 years during the 60s now at about 63.7%. Never the less; risk is still high and being aware of the signs and symptoms of leukaemia is crucial as early diagnostic is key to recovery.
Here! We represent 7 important symptoms of leukaemia followed by an in-depth look into the disease.
1. Anaemia and Related Symptoms
Anaemia is a reduction in the quantity of the oxygen-carrying pigment haemoglobin in the blood. Its causes are tracked back to different reasons one which is leukaemia. In that case it’s not the lack of the pigment itself rather than the lack of blood altogether. Symptoms are excessive tiredness, fatigability, breathlessness on exertion, and poor resistance to infection.
2. Bleeding or Bruising Easily
Susceptibility to bleeding or bruising is unmistakable sign of leukaemia. As blood cells are not in normal condition they lose the ability to form clots and there for the smallest cuts can go on bleeding for longer. Moreover; nose bleeding occurs more frequently and finding traces of blood on an apple because of gum bleeding becomes a usual thing. Also; bruising tends to happen easily and even the smallest knocks can leave a trace on the skin.
3. Susceptibility to Infections
For the same reasons as anaemia, deformity of blood cells; the body becomes more susceptible to infections due to the malformation of the white blood cells as they represent the body’s shield against all kinds of viruses and bacteria. When seasonal common cold takes a huge toll on the body in addition to constant headaches, mouth sores, or skin rash; leukaemia should be in the check list during the next visit to the doctor.
4. Swollen Lymph Nodes
Swollen Lymph Nodes can be traced to various reasons and as a stand-alone, they cannot be relied up on to determine an existing case of leukaemia. However it’s worth noting that leukaemia related swollen lymph nodes occur usually in the throat, armpits, and groin areas. These symptoms should be monitored closely if other mentioned symptoms coexist.
5. Loss of appetite and weight
The loss of healthy and fully functional red blood cells can hinder multiple systems of the body. This can affect digestive system making it hard for the body to absorb the nutrition needed for its maintenance and growth. More over cancerous cells produce toxins that may lead to lack of appetite. All these reasons combined cause weight loss.
6. Pain Under the Left Lower Ribs
The spleen is responsible for removing worn-out red blood cells as well as other foreign bodies from the bloodstream. Subsequently it is normal that the spleen is working extra when we have a case of too many malformed blood cells. The pain under ribs than is caused by the enlarged spleen as it pushes against the bones and the stomach.
7. Night sweats
During a comfortable night of sleep, a person might be surprised to feel their temperature higher than normal and that they are sweating as if they were in gym. Rises in body temperature can be subtle and they may be caused by infection or small fever; but the unmistakeable sign of night sweats is that feeling of chill as a person catches a breeze due to wet clothing.
Types and Classifications of Leukaemia
Depending on the rate of progression, leukaemias are classified into acute or chronic varieties. In addition; the type of blood cells targeted by the disease is a factor in determining its nature. When the disease progresses rapidly as if it comes out of nowhere to threat the life of the patient, it’s described as acute on the other hand when the disease progresses slowly for long period it is described as chronic.
Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML)
A variety in which the type of blood cell that proliferates abnormally originates in the blood forming (myeloid) tissue of the bone marrow. Myeloid Leukaemia may be acute or chronic and may involve any of the cells produced by the marrow. In simple terms the blood cells produced under these circumstances are not normal and thus unable to perform their duties (white blood cells fight infections).
Acute Lymphocytic Leukaemia (ALL)
Lymphocyte is a variety of white blood cell present also in the lymph nodes, spleen, thymus gland, gut wall, and bone marrow. They are involved in immunity and can be subdivided into B- Lymphocyte and T- Lymphocyte; consequently any lack or damage relating to these cells represents a direct hit to the body’s immune system. This form of leukaemia can happen at any age, but is found most commonly among people under 15 or over 45 years.
Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia (CLL)
As opposed to (ALL), Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia take time to progress in the body and for that reason it is harder to notice. (CLL) symptoms and mechanics of developing and affecting the patient’s body are the same as (ALL). The only difference is the time frame in which each one progresses and each is dangerous in its own way,
Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia (CML)
(CML) and Acute Myeloid Leukaemia share the same characteristics in terms of where they hit the body and how. The difference is the chronic form of Myeloid Leukaemia has its own way of progression; it starts as a chronic, slow developing, disease but it can turn abruptly into the acute form. Blood cells in patients with Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia contain a reciprocal translocation between chromosomes 9 and 22, which leads to foreshortened long arm of chromosome number 22. This abnormal chromosome is called Philadelphia chromosome. CML diagnoses account for 10-15% of all types of leukaemia and tends to strike older people. The average age for a first diagnosis is 67 years old.
Too many of early leukaemia are mild and easily confused with other nonthreatening conditions. Assuming a condition of leukaemia based solely on these symptoms can be a false alarm for most of the time. But it’s paramount to keep leukaemia in mind and get a doctors opinion on the matter. Too many false alarms can tire a person but if the alarm turns to be true an early check is vital for survivability. Finally Leukaemia can produce very nasty symptoms in its later stages such as vision problems, ringing in the ears, strokes, or significant changes in mental status, and it’s vital that the disease is detected before theses show up.