Leukemia is a cancer of the blood. This cancer will begin to form in someone’s bone marrow, which is the soft center of the long bones that are in the arm and leg. This marrow makes the three major types of blood cells that are in the body: red, white, and platelets. When in proper combination, the body is oxygenated, can fight off disease, and clot during an injury. With leukemia, the cells are released when they are underdeveloped and sometimes they won’t die. This eliminates room for the healthy cells and leukemia is the result.
1. There Are Two Basic Forms
Leukemia can have acute forms and it can have chronic forms. Acute leukemia happens when the disease begins to grow rapidly when there isn’t any treatment being received. Chronic leukemia develops slowly and can be present for a long time without any symptoms being noticed. Leukemia has become so common that one American will be diagnosed with this disease, on average, every 4 months.
2. It Affects Men
Leukemia affects men more than it effects women. Men have a 31% greater chance of living with this disease and they have an equally higher rate of dying from it after being diagnosed. If that man is an African American, then he’s at a 10% higher rate of dying in the next 5 years than any other racial demographic. In total, 66 people will lose their battle with leukemia every day.
3. How Common Is It?
Every year, the chances of developing leukemia are 35 out of 1 million. Out of those 35 people who are diagnosed with this disease, 5 of them will be children. Although those rates seem rather low, it makes leukemia one of the top diagnosed cancers every year. More than 310,000 Americans right now are living with this disease.
4. Leukemia Targets
For children who come from a Hispanic background, leukemia is the most common cancer that is diagnosed. Although they have better survival chances than African American children, the Hispanic 5 year survival rates are still lower overall when compared to whites. It also causes more deaths among children than any other childhood cancer, but adults are diagnosed with it 10 times more than children are.
5. Leukemia Has 4 Common Types
Leukemia is typically seen as myeloid or lymphocytic and they can either be acute or chronic. Lymphocytic that is chronic occurs most often in adults over the age of 55 and almost never is diagnosed in children. Acute leukemia that is lymphocytic, however, is the most common form of this disease that can be found in young children.
6. It Forms How?
The exact cause of leukemia isn’t actually known. There are some possible risk factors that have been shown to be promising. People who are exposed to higher levels of radiation may develop this disease and exposure to high chemical levels, such as formaldehyde, may also cause it. Smoking has been confirmed as a risk factor for certain forms of leukemia and drugs that are used in long-term chemotherapy may also cause it.
7. How is Leukemia Diagnosed?
There are some common symptoms of leukemia, but not everyone has the same types of symptoms. General feelings of fatigue, frequent infections or night sweats and frequent fevers are often seen. People with leukemia tend to bruise more easily and will have bleeding gums, even with good oral health. There can be pain in the joints or the bones, abdomen swelling, and swollen lymph nodes in the neck and arm.
8. Can Leukemia Be Prevented?
Most people who get leukemia don’t have any of the risk factors that are known. This means preventing leukemia isn’t possible to do beyond limiting known exposures. The main thing that can be done to prevent leukemia is to stop smoking. 1 out of every 5 cases of acute myeloid leukemia that occurs in adults has been directly linked to smoking.
9. How Long Have We Known?
It is believed that medical science has known about leukemia for up to 1,500 years. The word comes from two old Greek words that mean “white blood.” Although it may have been recognized in the 5th century, however, effective treatment options didn’t begin until the 19th century at the very least.
10. Can People Survive?
The median 5 year survival rate of leukemia is about 54%. For people who are diagnosed in the United States, the median age of death is actually 74. It’s typically a disease that strikes in the older years, but it can affect anyone of any age. That’s why it is so important to know these facts and be aware of the symptoms of leukemia that hasn’t been diagnosed.
11. Why Is Early Diagnosis Better?
For children, leukemia is the leading killer of kids in the world today when accidents are removed from the equation. It’s also the leading cancer killer of people who are under the age of 35. When all age groups are considered, the only cancer that ends up ending the lives of more people is lung cancer. If it is left untreated, it is 100% terminal. That’s why any unusual symptoms should be discussed with a doctor immediately.
12. Why Are Survival Rates So Low?
Leukemia tends to be an end of life disease. In the United Kingdom, for example, over 40% of the new cases of this cancer in a recent year were in people who were above the age of 70. This is approaching the average life span of many nations, which means 5 year survival rates are going to be lower because it’s a natural end of human life. Despite this fact, however, the 5 year survival rates for leukemia have tripled in the last 40 years.
13. Kids Are Doing Better
In the 1970’s, only 10% of kids who were diagnosed with leukemia of any type would survive for the next 5 years. Today that figure is more than 80%. A lot of progress has been made, but more can and needs to be done. Until a total cure is found, this disease will continue to affect families and children. That’s why ongoing research is so critical.