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Leukemia
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Resource Description: 
The American Cancer Society is the nationwide, community-based, voluntary health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem by preventing cancer, saving lives, and diminishing suffering from cancer, through research, education, advocacy, and service.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) coordinates the National Cancer Program, which conducts and supports research, training, health information dissemination, and other programs with respect to the cause, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of cancer, rehabilitation from cancer, and the continuing care of cancer patients and the families of cancer patients.
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) is the world's largest voluntary health organization dedicated to funding blood cancer research, education and patient services.
The mission of the CLL Foundation is to raise money for research that will lead to a better understanding of the disease and to better treatments for those who have been diagnosed with the disease.
Episode number: 
607

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Transcript: 
Leukemia (transcript)

(Source: NIH / National Cancer Institute) Leukemia is cancer of the white blood cells. White blood cells help your body fight infection. Your blood cells form in your bone marrow. In leukemia, however, the bone marrow produces abnormal white blood cells. These cells crowd out the healthy blood cells, making it hard for blood to do its work.

Leukemia can develop quickly or slowly. Chronic leukemia grows slowly. In acute leukemia, the cells are very abnormal and their number increases rapidly. Adults can get either type; childen with leukemia most often have an acute type. Some leukemias can often be cured. Other types are hard to cure, but you can often control them. Treatments may include chemotherapy, radiation and stem cell transplantation. Even if symptoms disappear, you might need therapy to prevent a relapse.

There are different types of leukemia, including

Acute lymphocytic leukemia

In acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), also called acute lymphoblastic leukemia, there are too many of specific types of white blood cells called lymphocytes or lymphoblasts. ALL is the most common type of cancer in children.

Possible risk factors for ALL include being male, being white, previous chemotherapy treatment, exposure to radiation, and for adults, being older than 70.

Symptoms of ALL include:

  • Weakness or feeling tired
  • Fever
  • Easy bruising or bleeding
  • Bleeding under the skin
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weight loss or loss of appetite
  • Pain in the bones or stomach
  • Pain or a feeling of fullness below the ribs
  • Painless lumps in the neck, underarm, stomach, or groin

Tests that examine the blood and bone marrow diagnose ALL. Treatments include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, stem cell transplants, and targeted therapy. Targeted therapy uses substances that attack cancer cells without harming normal cells. Once the leukemia is in remission, you need additional treatment to make sure that it does not come back.

Acute myeloid leukemia

In acute myeloid leukemia (AML), there are too many of a specific type of white blood cell called a myeloblast. AML is the most common type of acute leukemia in adults. This type of cancer usually gets worse quickly if it is not treated. Possible risk factors include smoking, previous chemotherapy treatment, and exposure to radiation.

Symptoms of AML include:

  • Fever
  • Shortness of breath
  • Easy bruising or bleeding
  • Bleeding under the skin
  • Weakness or feeling tired
  • Weight loss or loss of appetite

Tests that examine the blood and bone marrow diagnose AML. Treatments include chemotherapy, other drugs, radiation therapy, stem cell transplants, and targeted therapy. Targeted therapy uses substances that attack cancer cells without harming normal cells. Once the leukemia is in remission, you need additional treatment to make sure that it does not come back.

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia

In chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), there are too many lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell. CLL is the second most common type of leukemia in adults. It often occurs during or after middle age, and is rare in children.

Usually CLL does not cause any symptoms. If you have symptoms, they may include:

  • Painless swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck, underarm, stomach, or groin
  • Fatigue
  • Pain or a feeling of fullness below the ribs
  • Fever and infection
  • Weight loss

Tests that examine the blood, bone marrow, and lymph nodes diagnose CLL. Your doctor may choose to just monitor you until symptoms appear or change. Treatments include radiation therapy, chemotherapy, surgery to remove the spleen, and targeted therapy. Targeted therapy uses substances that attack cancer cells without harming normal cells.

Chronic myeloid leukemia

In chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), there are too many granulocytes, a type of white blood cell. Most people with CML have a gene mutation (change) called the Philadelphia chromosome.

Sometimes CML does not cause any symptoms. If you have symptoms, they may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Night sweats
  • Fever
  • Pain or a feeling of fullness below the ribs on the left side

Tests that examine the blood and bone marrow diagnose CML. Treatments include chemotherapy, stem cell transplants, infusion of donated white blood cells following stem cell transplants, surgery to remove the spleen, and biologic and targeted therapies. Biologic therapy boosts your body's own ability to fight cancer. Targeted therapy uses substances that attack cancer cells without harming normal cells.

Source: NIH: National Cancer Institute

Key Point 1

The use of biologic markers have greatly increased the ability to diagnose stage and choose treatments and give cancer prognosis.  Now while this process takes time the advances have made cancer treatments more successful.  And sometimes the proper treatment is no treatment at all.

Key Point 2

The best treatment to cure Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia may not be what the average patient needs.  May not be the best treatment for an individual.  Treatment options need to be weighed based on the patient's overall health and where they are in their life, where they are in their disease.

Medline Plus

Medline Description: 

Conduct an off-site search for leukemia from MedlinePlus.  These up-to-date search results are based on search terms specific to Second Opinion Key Points.

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