By: Prof. Dr. Seyed Saeid Zamanieh Shahri, MD  and  Prof. Dr. Sonia Sayyedalhosseini, MD

Leukemia types:  Leukemia types are classified based on the type of white blood cells that are affected and according to the speed of disease progression. Lymphoid leukemia (lymphoid or lymphoblastic leukemia) develops in white blood cells called lymphocytes in the bone marrow. Myeloid leukemia (myelogenous) may start in white blood cells other than lymphocytes, as well as red blood cells and platelets.

According to the speed of its growth and progression, leukemia is classified as acute (fast growing) or chronic (slow growing). Acute leukemia is rapidly progressing and leads to the accumulation of immature and dysfunctional blood cells in the bone marrow. With this type of leukemia, cells are produced and accumulate in the bone marrow, reducing the brain’s ability to produce enough healthy blood cells. Chronic leukemia progresses more slowly and results in an accumulation of relatively mature, but still abnormal, white blood cells.

The types of leukemia include the following:

• Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL)

• Acute myeloid leukemia (AML)

• Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)

• Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML)

• Hairy cell leukemia

• Myelodysplastic syndromes

Symptoms: The signs and symptoms of leukemia are different according to the stage of leukemia. Many people often experience no symptoms or develop slowly in the early stages of certain types of leukemia. Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) are types of blood cancer that progress much faster and symptoms may worsen faster than chronic leukemia. In this article, we will discuss the signs and symptoms and risk factors of blood cancer.

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۱) Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL)

This type of leukemia progresses rapidly. Healthy cells that produce functional lymphocytes replaced by leukemia cells that cannot mature properly. Leukemia cells travel in the bloodstream to other organs and tissues, including the brain, liver, lymph nodes, and testicles, where they grow and divide. The growth, division, and spread of these leukemia cells may lead to a number of possible symptoms.

Symptoms of Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia: All symptoms are often flu-like and can include: fever, weakness, fatigue, headache, loss of appetite, pale skin, vomiting, and body aches.

Other possible signs and symptoms of ALL may include: bleeding gums, frequent infections, nosebleeds, bruising, swollen lymph nodes around the neck, armpits, stomach, or groin, shortness of breath, weight loss

۲) Acute myeloid leukemia (AML)

This leukemia is also called acute myelogenous leukemia, acute myeloblastic leukemia, acute granulocytic leukemia or acute non-lymphocytic leukemia. In fact, it is a type of rapid growth of blood and bone marrow cancer. AML is the most common type of acute leukemia. This happens when the bone marrow begins to make blasts (cells that have not yet fully matured). These blasts normally turn into white blood cells. However, in AML, these cells do not develop and are unable to fight off infection. In AML, the bone marrow may also make abnormal red blood cells and platelets. The number of these abnormal cells increases rapidly and the abnormal cells (leukemia) destroy the white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets needed by the body.

Symptoms of Acute Myeloid Leukemia: Because AML makes abnormal cells that destroy normal healthy cells, many of its symptoms are the result of low numbers of healthy blood cells in the body. Some symptoms of AML include:

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Frequent infection and fever: The function of white blood cells is to repel infections and protect our body against foreign microbes and bacteria. Because AML reduces the number of healthy white blood cells, the body is unable to defend itself against foreign microbes and bacteria. Therefore, patients with AML may have increased rates of infection and fever.

Anemia: Red blood cells carry oxygen to the body. Low levels of healthy red blood cells from AML may lead to feelings of fatigue or weakness, shortness of breath, and pallor.

Bleeding or bruising easily: Platelets control bleeding. Having low levels of platelets in the blood can lead to easy bleeding or bruising. It can cause slow healing of cuts, prolonged bleeding from minor cuts, and unexplained bruising. It can also lead to petechiae, tiny red spots under the skin.

Joint and bone pain: An increase in the number of cancer cells (Leukemia cells) can cause pain in the bones, joints, or both.

۳) Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)

CLL is a type of cancer that usually grows slowly and starts in the lymphocytes of the bone marrow and spreads to the blood. Also, it may spread to the lymph nodes and organs such as the liver and spleen. CLL develops when abnormal lymphocytes overgrow and destroy normal blood cells, making it harder for the body to fight infection.

To be continued….

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