Leukemia is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow. The bone marrow is the spongy centre of bones, and it produces blood cells: white cells, red cells, and platelets. White cells help the body fight infections. Red cells carry oxygen from the lungs to the body’s organs. Platelets help create blood clots to control bleeding. Stem cells in the bone marrow give birth to cells that mature into white cells, red cells, or platelets in the correct amounts, in a process called differentiation.
When leukemia occurs, the bone marrow begins to produce immature white cells, called ‘blasts’, that don’t serve their purpose, and outnumber the regular cells preventing them from doing their work properly.
Leukemias are classified as either myelocytic or lymphocytic depending on what type of white cell is affected. Each type further divides into chronic or acute depending on how fast the disease spreads.
Chronic leukemias progress more slowly than acute ones.There are four main types of leukemia:
Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL)
Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML)
Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL)
Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML)
More info here.
Blood cancers are not limited to leukemia, but also include Lymphoma and Myeloma. More info respectively here and here.
Leukemia is NOT contagious!
It is estimated that 54,270 men and women will be diagnosed with and 24,450 men and women will die of Leukaemia in 2015 in the U.S. only (respectively 162,020 and 56,630 including Lymphoma and Myeloma figures). Leukaemia is children’s world top killer.
Although research has brought to great achievements, many forms of leukaemia are still not curable or entail therapies that are painful and risky for the patient. Moreover, most of the world’s countries cannot afford the highly expensive drugs needed to beat leukaemia.
We cannot change the past, but we can definitely make a difference in our future. Those who are unconvinced of the benefits of research can look back and acknowledge that until not long ago people died of diseases as innocuous as flu.
BEAT LEUKEMIA is committed to staunch a dangerous killer still on the run; help us make a difference.
1. Source: American Cancer Society (2015). Cancer Facts and Figures 2015, p.4. Available online here.