Leukemia is a disease of the stem cells that make up the blood. Human blood is composed of different cells all of which come from bone marrow. Our blood contains the white cells, red cells and platelets.
Leukemia starts in the bone marrow, in its blood forming cells. There are two kinds of stem cells in the bone marrow; myeloid stem cell, that forms the red blood cells, platelets and several types of W.B.Cs; the other being lymphoid stem cell that produces several kinds of W.B.Cs, antibodies, B-cells and T-cells, the defensive components of human blood.
In the bone marrow of a person affected with leukemia, abnormal white cells are produced. These abnormal cells, unlike other cancerous cells, do not perform normal function. Instead, they interfere with the function of the normal blood cells.
Leukemia is not a disease of a specific part. It is a combination of many disorders in the blood forming cells that lead to abnormal W.B.C production and hence causes cancer.
The types of leukemia include myeloid and lymphoid leukemia. Treatments for leukemia depend upon its acute or chronic state. The treatment also depends upon one’s age.
Leukemia cells proliferate abnormally and absorb much of a person’s nutrition. Hence, to stop this growth, anti-cancer drugs are given so as to destroy these cells completely.
These drugs may also target the healthy cells but cells that are healthy, generally are capable of growing and then multiplying themselves after their destruction. Chemotherapy for a leukemia patient can be carried out in several ways.
It can either be given orally, through IV, through a catheter, into the CSF, into the spinal fluid or under the scalp. Chemotherapy possesses many side effects as well such as destruction of healthy blood cells, hair loss, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, and can cause infertility too.
Interferon is a class of proteins that are released by the virus-infected cells of our body. A type of interferon known as interferon-alpha is being used to treat leukemia. This protein tends to reduce the proliferation of leukemic cells.
This biological therapy to fight leukemia makes use of one’s own immune system and hence, protects from various side effects of other treatments. However, this therapy does contain certain side effects such as flu-like symptoms, weakness, nausea, difficulty in breathing and low blood pressure.
This is another kind of biological therapy used to treat leukemia. Monoclonal anti-bodies are actually produced in labs. They tend to bind with the leukemic cells and then destroy them.
Like for other cancers, radiation therapy is also carried out as one of the treatments for leukemia. This therapy makes use of high energy beams that penetrate into the body and destroy the leukemic cells and may also destroy the normal body cells along with them.
Radio therapy to treat leukemia is carried out with the help of large machines that are aimed at brain or spleen or at the other parts of body where there is an accumulation of the leukemic cells.
After the treatment of leukemia, many healthy blood cells are destroyed. Hence, for their reproduction and for the formation of healthy lymphoid and myeloid stem cells, stem cell transplant is performed.
During the chemotherapy and the radiotherapy sessions, in the pursuit of destroying the leukemic cells, the bone marrow of patient is likely to be subjected to destruction. Stem cell transplantation helps to cope up with this condition. This treatment may also be carried out when leukemia in a person is in remission.
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