Leukemia: Types and Treatment Options
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Published: Wed, 06 Jun 2018
Background information: Leukemia is a disease that has been affecting society these days. About 119,280 new cases are being found out this year. Leukemia is a blood cancer having to do with leukocytes, or as better known white blood cells, that take over the bone marrow and spread throughout the blood stream in our body. White blood cells exist in our body to protect it against diseases and infections.
There are five types of white blood cells that go through the blood to the site of infection. These cells are grouped into two groups: Granulocytes and Agranulocytes. Granulocytes are a category of white blood cells characterized by the presence of granules in their cytoplasm.
Neutrophils are granulocyte and are the most common White Blood Cell (WBC) in the body. It’s the first one to show up to ingest bacteria, virus particles, fungi, and protozoa. Eosinophils have a bilobed nuclei and uniform-sized cytosplamic granule. They moderate allergic reactions and defend against parasitic worm infestations. Basophilis is also a Granulocyte and the smallest of the three. They discharge their granules containing histamine and heparin into damaged tissue spaces to promote inflammation and blood flow to damaged areas.
Agranulocytes lacks granules in their cytoplasm. The two types of granulocytes are as follow: Monocytes which travel through the blood for a day before even existing. The migrating monocytes are big eaters and they develop into macrophages and phagocytose bacteria debris in the tissue. Lymphocytes are grouped into T cells and B cells. T cells may directly attack foreign and tumor cells. B cells produce antibodies attack foreign cells or proteins. These are the cells that are affected when a person is diagnosed with leukemia.
According to healthcommunities.com “Leukemia is classified by how quickly it progresses. Acute leukemia is fast-growing and can overrun the body within a few weeks or months. By contrast, chronic leukemia is slow-growing and progressively worsens over years. The blood-forming cells of acute leukemia remain in an immature state, so they reproduce and accumulate very rapidly. Therefore, acute leukemia needs to be treated immediately; otherwise the disease may be fatal within a few months. Fortunately, some subtypes of acute leukemia respond very well to available therapies and they are curable. Children often develop acute forms of leukemia, which are managed differently from leukemia in adults.”
Chronic Leukemia is distinguished by the excessive build up of relatively mature, but still abnormal, white blood cells. Usually it takes months or years to progress; the cells produce at a faster rate than normal cells, resulting in many abnormal white blood cells in the blood. Chronic leukemia mostly occurs in older people, but can also occur in any age group. There is Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia that often occurs to adult older than the age of 55. There is also Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia that occurs mainly in adults and a very few amount of children develop the disease.
“Acute lymphocytic leukemia is the most common type of leukemia in young children. This disease also affects adults, especially at age 65 and older. This type of Leukemia is a cancer of the white blood cells, characterized by the overproduction and continuous multiplication of malignant and immature white blood in the bone marrow. It is a hematological malignancy.” (Pakhare 2004)
The Bone Marrow is a “soft highly vascular modified connective tissue that occupies the cavities and cancellous part of most bones and occurs in two forms: a : a whitish or yellowish bone marrow consisting chiefly of fat cells and predominating in the cavities of the long bones-called also yellow marrow b : a reddish bone marrow containing little fat, being the chief seat of red blood cell and blood granulocyte formation, and occurring in the normal adult only in cancellous tissue especially in certain flat bones-called also red marrow” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary.)
When a Bone Marrow starts to produce abnormally white blood cells, it is called leukemia. When the white blood cells are being produced in a vast amount and at a fast rate, it starts to feast on the erythrocytes therefore leaving the body with out any blood. Blood is what keeps the human body alive. It carries the oxygen through our whole body. There three ways to treat leukemia and that is Chemotherapy, Radiation Therapy, and Bone Marrow Transplants.
Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill the cancer cells. These drugs can be given intravenously, orally, subcutaneously, intramuscularly (injected into muscle), or intrathecally. But the chemotherapy treatment varies since there are different types of leukemia and not only does it kill the cancer cells but it also kills other cells.
Radiation therapy works by damaging the genetic material (DNA) within cells, which prevents the cells from growing and reproducing. Although the radiotherapy is directed at cancer cells, healthy cells near the cancer cells may also be damaged. However, a goal of radiotherapy is to protect the healthy cells as much as possible, so that the benefit (destroying the cancer cells) outweighs the risk (harming healthy cells). (The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society 2009)
Bone Marrow transplant replaces the diseased bone marrow with a healthier one. “Bone marrow transplantation is accomplished by the intravenous administration of bone marrow or stem cells capable of reproducing themselves and repopulating an empty or defective bone marrow. Often, chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy are required prior to the administration of the stem cells in order to eradicate the remaining defective bone marrow. For patients with cancer, the chemotherapy and radiation therapy also are effective at treating the cancer.” (Cutler 2005)
But what are the positive and negative outcomes of these treatments? Although Chemotherapy does manage to kill most cancerous cell it also comes with some side-effects. For example nausea, vomiting, hair loss, fatigue, anemia, mouth sores, taste and smell changes, infection, diarrhea, menopause, and infertility. The side-effects of Radiation Therapy treatment are similar to the ones of Chemotherapy. A bone marrow may not be successful because of disease recurrence or regimen-related toxicity. Regimen-related toxicity refers to side effects that patients may experience during the course of transplantation. These side effects include graft-vs-host disease (GvHD), graft rejection, bacterial infections, fungal infections, viral infections, gastrointestinal and hepatic complications, neurologic complications, pulmonary complications, and late effects after stem cell transplant.
Although these treatments can help people with leukemia it can also kill them. It might kill cancerous cells but it also kills other good cells.
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