Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia

Acute lymphocytic leukemia is a kind of cancer that involves one's bone marrow and blood. Acute lymphocyte leukemia is also known as acute lymphoblastic leukemia. This disease progresses quickly and creates immature blood cells, rather than mature ones. Acute lymphocytic leukemia is mostly found in children and the treatment is highly effective. Acute lymphocytic leukemia also affects adults as well.

However, the chances for a cure from this disease is significantly lowered. Some symptoms of acute lymphocytic leukemia are bone pain, fever, bleeding of the gum, frequent infections, frequent nosebleeds, pale skin, weakness, fatigue, decrease in energy, shortness of breathe, and lumps around the abdomen, groin, underarm or neck from the swollen nymph nodes.

Acute lymphocytic leukemia happens when a bone marrow cell have errors in its DNA. This error sends a message to the cell to keep multiplying and growing. A normal cell would normally stop growing and die. When these cells keep multiplying and growing, the blood cell production of the body becomes abnormal. The bone marrow produces these rapidly growing, immature cells that turns into leukemic white blood cells (also known as lymphoblasts). Because these abnormal cells are dysfunctional and cannot stop multiplying, they build up and take over the healthy cells.

We do not know what causes this strange DNA mutation that leads to acute lymphocytic leukemia, but researchers found that this disease is not inherited. There is no relation between genetics and acute lymphocyte leukemia.

There are various factors that come into play in acute lymphocytic leukemia. If you have a history with cancer treatments are more likely to develop acute lymphocytic leukemia.

There are certain types of radiation therapy and chemotherapy that are used on different types of cancer that increases the risk of developing acute lymphocytic leukemia. Those who have experienced high levels of radiation for a period of time are more likely to develop acute lymphocytic leukemia. There are also certain genetic disorders such as Down's syndrome that increases the risk for this disease. Also, if one has a sibling with acute lymphocytic leukemia, this also increases the risk for acute lymphocytic leukemia.

In order to diagnose acute lymphocytic leukemia, doctors have to conduct a variety of tests. Blood tests would be administered to look for an excess of white blood cells. People with acute lymphocytic leukemia tend to have an increased amount of white blood cells, not enough red blood cells and platelets, and a presence of blast cells (immature cells in the bone marrow). A bone marrow test can also be administered. This is when a needle is inserted to the hipbone to remove a sample of the bone marrow.

Doctors will be able to look for chances in cancer cells. Imaging tests can be used to see whether or not the cancer has spread to other parts of the body such as the spinal cord or brain. A spinal fluid test (otherwise known as a spinal tap), can also be used for a sample of spinal fluid. This fluid can tell doctors whether or not the cancer cells have spread to the spinal fluid.

Treatment for acute lymphocytic leukemia can be divided into separate phases. The phases are: induction therapy (kills most of leukemia cells), consolidation therapy (destroys the remaining leukemia in the body), and maintenance therapy (prevents leukemic cells from coming back). This treatment plan can range from 2-3 years. Treatment used to help patients with acute lymphocytic leukemia include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, stem cell transplant, chemotherapy, and clinical trials. Older adults (particularly over the age of 60), are more likely to experience complications from acute lymphocytic leukemia. They are also more likely to experience a more aggressive cancer. 

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