Created By: Mariela Dagio
Leukemia. Most people have heard of it. Maybe a close family member or friend that you know was diagnosed with it. Well what is Leukemia? Too some people it may just be "another form of cancer." However, for people like myself, who have experienced and watch others go through the cancer, I was curious, and had many questions.
Now first off, to give a background on the cancer, Leukemia, it was not officially diagnosed until 1845. John Hughes Benett diagnosed it in Edinburgh originally calling it, "Weisses Blut", or "White Blood." Now, Leukemia comes from the greek words, "leukos" and 'heima." Both of these words also mean "White Blood" (McGlauflin 2005, 1). Leukemia is the cancer of the blood cells and bone marrow. Typically the cancerous tumor begins in the bone marrow. Bone marrow is the soft tissue on the inside of bones that make the blood cells that are placed in to the blood stream (Campbell 2010, 1). If a body is healthy, working properly, and with no cancerous tumor, there are a few things that are supposed to be created in the bone marrow. Some of these include, the white blood cells. These fight off diseases and infections to keep the body healthy. Red blood cells are also made to carry oxygen to all part of the body. Finally, platelets are formed. Platelets clot the blood when needed (Campbell 2010, 2). When the cancerous tumor forms, leukemia cells are made. These are just abnormal white blood cells that grow much faster than normal white blood cells and do not stop growing when they should (Campbell 2010, 3). Over a long period of time, these Leukemia cells can take over and replace the original white blood cells. This can lead to even more problems such as other infections, anemia, and bleeding. Also, there is a possibility for the Leukemia cells to spread to the lymph nodes and major organs causing swelling and pain (Campbell 2010, 4).
Leukemia is must more complex than one might think it is. It comes in quite a few amount of forms and is combined in different ways to get the four main types, Acute Myelogenous Leukemia, Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia, Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia, and Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (Chase 2009, 2). If one has an Acute Leukemia, then it means that the cells are multiplying rapidly and there is a possibility that you will be in pain and notice the symptoms right away. If somebody has Chronic Leukemia, then the cells are taking a very long time to multiply and one may not notice these symptoms for years (Campbell 2010, 6). Some of the symptoms that usually appear are fevers, and night sweats, headaches, being bruised or bleeding easily, having a swollen and painful belly from an enlarged spleen, swollen lymph nodes in armpits, neck and groin, being tired and very weak, losing weight and never seeming to be hungry, bone and joint pain, and very prone to infections (Campbell 2010, 8). Then, "Lymphocytic" and " Myelogenous" refers to the blood cell that they are attacking (Chase 2009, 1). Lymphocytic Leukemia attack white blood cells called lymphocytes, while Myelogenous Leukemia attacks the myelocyte white blood cells (Campbell 2010, 6). Along with the four main types, there are a few others. These just are subtypes of the original, Erythroleukemia, Hairy Cell Leukemia, and Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia (Campbell 2010, 15).
As for the reasons and causes for Leukemia, scientists have not quite discovered what the main cause is. However, scientific studies and experiments show that some risk factors such as exposure to radiation and chemicals, smoking, having Down Syndrome, and going through chemotherapy for other cancers, can one day lead to Leukemia. On the other hand, people that do have Leukemia, sometimes have never experienced those risk factors, and most people who do have these risk factors, do not ever have Leukemia. So really, even though there are things that you can try to avoid and keep in mind, there is no guarantee to whether or not one will get Leukemia (Campbell 2010, 7). Also, childhood Leukemia has become a lifestyle disease. With families becoming smaller and much more hygienic, young children are not exposed to infections at an early age (McGlauflin 2005, 3). People are also becoming more and more exposed to the Leukemia cells from living in a very developed world. With our world becoming less of what our bodies were built for, and more chemicals floating around in the air daily, the chances of getting Leukemia are going higher and higher every day (McGlauflin 2005, 4).
Back to the types of Leukemia's, there is not only "Leukemia". There will always be a specific type. Acute Myelogenous Leukemia is the number one most common kind found in adults. This type is the Myelocyte White Blood Cell multiplying very quickly. The next most common Leukemia, is the Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia. This one affects the Lymphocyte White Blood Cells, however, it takes a long time to progress and grow. There is also the Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia, affecting the Myelocyte White Blood Cells in a very slow process. Finally, there is the Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia. This is the least common form of this specific cancer, however, it is the form that appears the most in children (Chase 2009, 2).
Finally, we have the cures and treatments. Leukemia is a very difficult disease to cure, because surgery alone can not cure it. Because the Leukemia cells are located in the blood cells, the cancer is located all throughout the body (Chase 2009, 3). When the cancer is an Acute Leukemia, treatment is needed to stop the quick reproduction of the cancerous cells. With the treatment, the Leukemia can go into "Remission." Doctors prefer using the term remission because the cancer is not fully cured and there is a chance that it might come back (Campbell 2010, 9; Chase 2009, 5). Chronic Leukemia, on the other hand, is a rarity when it is cured. The treatment, though, helps with controlling the cancer, but the treatments happen at different times depending on the cancer. Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia should be treated instantly, while Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia treatment usually waits until the symptoms are present (Campbell 2010, 10).
Arsenic treatment is historically speaking the first treatment solution for Leukemia. Sometime in the Eighteenth Century, Thomas Fowler made a solution of arsenic trioxide and potassium bicarbonate. This treated anemia, Hodgkin's Disease, and Leukemia. This was the primary treatment used to cure Leukemia up until the early Twentieth Century, when radiation therapy was being used to treat Leukemia and other cancers (McGlauflin 2005, 5).
When radiation therapy was first discovered, Leukemia seemed to be an absolutely incurable disease. When discovered, they realized that X-rays decreased the size of cancerous tumors (McGlauflin 2005, 6). Using the radiation therapy, it would decrease the size of swelled lymph nodes or an enlarged spleen. Radiation therapy is often used before a stem cell transplant. When going through the treatment, the patient lays on a table and the radiation can be pinpointed on one spot on the body, or in Leukemia's case, all over the body (Campbell 2010, 12; Mayo 2012, 4).
Stem cell transplants are used to replace the diseased bone marrow with healthy bone marrow (Mayo 2012, 5). Stem cell transplants also can rebuild the blood cells and boost your immune system. Before the transplant is carried through, a round of either radiation or chemotherapy would be performed to destroy the cancerous cells (Campbell 2010, 13). Stem cells can be from a donor, or if they are healthy enough, from another part of your body (Mayo 2012, 5).
Another treatment that is used for Leukemia is aminopterin. Aminopterin is a compound that is related to folic acid. Folic acid is found in every patient when they go through remission. The aminopterin prevents DNA replication in the cancerous tumor cells (McGlauflin 2005, 8).
Biological therapy is for people who do not want a whole lot of chemicals and radiation used on their bodies. Also, this is used for patients whose cancer has not spread to the entire body, no comma needed yet. Biological therapy helps to improve one's body's natural defenses to fight off the cancerous cells (Campbell 2010, 14). It also helps the body to recognize and attack the Leukemia cells (Mayo 2012, 2).
Targeted therapy does help with the process to remission, however, it does not eliminate all of the cancer cells. It targets the weaknesses of an individual cell and attacks that. It does not completely cure the cancer but it does help in controlling the disease. Also, it is sometimes used before a major treatment such as radiation therapy chemotherapy (Mayo 2012, 3).
Finally, there is the main type of treatment for Leukemia, chemotherapy. Chemotherapy was discovered after World War II. Chemicals in the Mustard Gas that was made to attack the Germans, was later found out that it broke down white blood cells. They discovered this because a group of soldiers accidently came into contact with the mustard gas and had a sudden decrease in white blood cells (McGlauflin 2005, 7). When going through chemotherapy, it may be given through just a pill, or it would be injected into a vein. It also could be one drug, or a combination, depending on the form of Leukemia that one might have. Chemotherapy, of course has its upsides and downsides to it. The good thing is that by wiping out the diseased blood cells, usually the patient can go into remission. However, with white blood cells being the part of the blood stream that attacks disease, and the chemotherapy eliminating those, it makes it very difficult for one to battle any other diseases that come into the body. When under the chemotherapy treatment, the patient is always under close and extreme care and watch, just because of the body being so prone to infection or disease (Mayo 2012, 1; Campbell 2010, 11).
In the end, it was very clear to myself of what Leukemia is. It is not just another "disease" or "sickness" that you would be lucky to not get. However, there is much more to it than that. It is not only easy to get the cancer in the first place, but it takes a lot of treatment and time for the Leukemia to be "cured." On top of that, usually it is not even cured! If one is lucky and the treatments work, then the Leukemia might go into remission. This is a very complex cancer and people who do not have this, should be very thankful, knowing that their blood and bone marrow is working properly and they do not have to go through any kind of this treatment.
**GREAT paper very few errors, very informative
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