Leukemia, or leukemia, is a malignant disease in which, in the bone marrow, instead of red blood cells, a significant amount of white cells, or white blood cells, begins to be produced. This process becomes so intense that it cannot be controlled, and as a result, healthy cells are replaced by malignant cells. Depending on the speed of development of this process and the nature of its course, there are acute and chronic forms of leukemia.
The characteristic signs of the disease are fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath, rapid pulse, sleep disturbance, multiple bruising and bruising on the body, frequent nosebleeds, dizziness, fainting, high body temperature, swelling of the arms and legs, neck, pain in bones and joints, pale skin, poor appetite and weight loss.
Our expert, Dr. Paul Knable, explains what are the signs of leukemia, what to do when they appear and why you should not take the diagnosis as a sentence.
Chronic leukemia develops slowly, the first symptoms appear in the late stages, when the circulatory system functions are significantly impaired. Acute forms are rapid and require immediate treatment. Each of leukemia has its subtypes. The most common forms are chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), acute myeloid leukemia (AML), and acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Rarer forms include hairy cell leukemia (ON) and plasma cell leukemia. These types of diseases differ significantly in clinical manifestations, therefore, their treatment methods are different.
The only thing you need to remember: all of these signs individually, indeed, can talk about various diseases. But if the above symptoms appear simultaneously, and unexplained weakness, shortness of breath, excessive sweating at night, swollen lymph nodes, gum abnormalities, high fever that cannot be reduced with antibiotics are added to them, I would recommend contacting a specialist immediately.
The next important question: what studies should be included in the basic course of diagnosis in order to avoid medical error. The first stage of diagnosis is a general blood test, which reveals blood cells characteristic of leukemia, anemia, as well as the leukocyte formula, that is, the percentage of leukocytes and platelets. If all blood counts are normal, the likelihood of a disease is extremely small. In the event that a blood test shows the slightest deviations from the reference values, it is necessary to make an appointment with a hematologist.
Many people are afraid that in case of suspected leukemia, bone marrow puncture is often prescribed. Its essence is that during the procedure, a piece of bone tissue with bone marrow is taken from the ilium for laboratory research. I will not hide it, the procedure is rather painful, however, as a rule, it is performed under local anesthesia, in rare cases, anesthetists insist on general anesthesia.
Many are interested in: how urgently needs to be examined so that the disease does not go to the next stage? There is no definite answer to this question. It all depends on the form of the disease. The chronic form of leukemia usually progresses slowly, so bone marrow analysis can be delayed if necessary for several days.
But in the acute form of leukemia, the delay in death is similar, therefore, an emergency diagnosis is prescribed and the treatment method is immediately determined. If this is not done, a person may die due to acute infection, cerebral hemorrhage or impaired body functions.
Now suppose the most unpleasant: you have found leukemia. What to do? What treatment method should I follow? I want to say that a universal method of treatment for all forms of this disease does not exist. For example, patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia can go without treatment for many years. For other forms of leukemia, therapy is prescribed in accordance with the type of disease and the general health of the patient. In acute leukemia, in most cases, cytotoxic chemotherapy is prescribed, often followed by stem cell transplantation.
In some cases, the patient may be prescribed surgery – bone marrow transplantation. Doctors make a decision about the need for transplantation, given many factors, but in any case it is never unambiguous.