Leukemia is a type of cancer that occurs in the blood or bone marrow. Leukemia causes an uncontrolled growth of abnormal white blood cells, the infection fighting cells in the blood. Leukemia is one of the most common types of cancer and one of the top ten cancer killers.
Leukemia is a general term for four types of malignant disease of the blood and bone marrow. These include acute lymphocytic leukemia and acute myelogenous leukemia, which progress rapidly. The other forms of leukemia, chronic lymphocytic leukemia and chronic myelogenous leukemia, progress more slowly.
Leukemia is most treatable and curable if caught in the earliest stages of the disease. Untreated and/or advanced leukemia results in a proliferation of abnormal white blood cells that spread throughout the blood stream. These abnormal cells crowd out normal white blood cells. The abnormal white blood cells are not able to fight infections as effectively as the normal white blood cells. This results in increased infections.
The abnormal white blood cells of leukemia also crowd out red blood cells, resulting in anemia, a low number of red blood cells. Leukemia also results in lower numbers of platelet cells in the blood, which are needed for normal clotting. This results in impaired clotting.
The abnormal white blood cells formed in leukemia also accumulate in the organs of the body, such as the spleen, liver, spleen, lymph nodes, testes, and brain, and interfere with normal organ functioning. For more details on other key symptoms and complications, refer to symptoms of leukemia.
The cause of many cases of leukemia is unknown, but in some cases, leukemia is caused by abnormalities in the chromosomes. People at risk for developing leukemia include those who have been exposed to high doses of radiation, certain types of chemotherapy, or chemicals, such as benzene. Having Down syndrome or Fanconi's syndrome increases the risk as well. Additionally, certain viruses, such as Epstein-Barr virus, are associated with the development of leukemia. Smoking also increases the risk of leukemia.
Diagnosing leukemia begins with taking a thorough personal and family medical history, including symptoms and risk factors for leukemia. Diagnosis also includes completing a physical examination.
Diagnostic testing includes a blood test called a complete blood count (CBC). A complete blood count will reveal the presence of high or low numbers of white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets. Other blood tests are also done to diagnose the specific type of leukemia.
A bone marrow test is also done to diagnose leukemia. A bone marrow test involves using a needle to withdrawal a sample of cells from the bone marrow, where blood cells are formed. The sample is examined under a microscope for the presence of the abnormal leukemia cells.
A diagnosis of leukemia can be missed or delayed because some symptoms of leukemia are similar to those of other conditions. In addition, some people may have not symptoms in early stages of some forms of leukemia. For more information about other diseases, disorders and conditions that can mimic leukemia, refer to misdiagnosis of leukemia.
The prognosis for people with leukemia varies depending on the type of leukemia and other factors. However, many types of leukemia can be effectively treated and some can be cured. Survival rates for leukemia have risen dramatically in the last four decades due to improvements in treatment.
Treatment of leukemia varies, depending on the specific type of leukemia, the patient's age, health history, overall health status, and other factors. Treatment may include chemotherapy, bone marrow transplant and enrollment in clinical trials. For more details about treatment plans, refer to treatment of leukemia. ...more »
Leukemia: Cancer of the blood cells, usually white blood cells.
More detailed information about the symptoms,
causes, and treatments of Leukemia is available below.
Symptoms of leukemia can vary among individuals and differ depending on the specific type of leukemia. People with chronic lymphocytic leukemia or chronic myelogenous leukemia may not have any symptoms.
Symptoms of leukemia are caused by the high numbers of abnormal white blood cells that crowd out normal white blood cells, the body's infection ...more symptoms »
Treatment of leukemia starts with prevention. Preventive measures include not smoking and avoiding dangerous long-term exposure to certain dangerous chemicals, such as benzene.
Prevention also includes seeking regular medical care throughout the lifetime. Regular medical care allows a health care professional to best evaluate the risks of developing leukemia and asses and begin ...more treatments »
A diagnosis of leukemia can be delayed or missed because people with chronic lymphocytic leukemia or chronic myelogenous leukemia may not have any symptoms. In addition, some symptoms of leukemia can be vague and similar to symptoms of other diseases, conditions and disorders. These include influenza, aging, bleeding disorders, and upper respiratory infection. ...more misdiagnosis »
Symptoms of Leukemia
See full list of 43
symptoms of Leukemia
Treatments for Leukemia
- Immediate treatment - for acute leukemia cases and progressing chronic leukemia.
- Watchful waiting - some cases of chronic leukemia may not need immediate treatment if the disease is not progressing.
- Chemotherapy - the most common treatment type.
- more treatments...»
See full list of 25
treatments for Leukemia
Home Diagnostic Testing
Home medical testing related to Leukemia:
Wrongly Diagnosed with Leukemia?
Leukemia: Related Patient Stories
Read more about Deaths and Leukemia.
Types of Leukemia
See full list of 13
Types of Leukemia
Curable Types of Leukemia
Possibly curable types of Leukemia include:
- Ionising radiation related leukaemia
- Viruses related leukaemia
- more types...»
Rare Types of Leukemia:
Rare types of Leukemia include:
Diagnostic Tests for Leukemia
See full list of 6
diagnostic tests for Leukemia
Read more about complications of Leukemia.
Causes of Leukemia
Read more about causes of Leukemia.
More information about causes of Leukemia:
Disease Topics Related To Leukemia
Research the causes of these diseases that are similar to, or related to, Leukemia:
Leukemia: Undiagnosed Conditions
Commonly undiagnosed diseases in related medical categories:
Misdiagnosis and Leukemia
Mild worm infections undiagnosed in children: Human worm infestations, esp. threadworm, can be overlooked in some cases,
because it may cause only mild or even absent symptoms.
Although the most common symptoms are anal itch (or...read more »
Unnecessary hysterectomies due to undiagnosed bleeding disorder in women: The bleeding disorder
called Von Willebrand's disease is quite common in women, but often fails to be correctly diagnosed.
Women...read more »
Sinusitis is overdiagnosed: There is a tendency to give a diagnosis of sinusitis,
when the condition is really a harmless complication of another infection,
such as a ...read more »
Whooping cough often undiagnosed: Although most children in the Western world have been
immunized against whooping cough (also called "pertussis"), this protection wears
off after about 15 years.
Thus, any teen or adult with a...read more »
Mesenteric adenitis misdiagnosed as appendicitis in children: Because appendicitis is one of the
more feared conditions for a child with abdominal pain, it can be over...read more »
Blood pressure cuffs misdiagnose hypertension in children: One known misdiagnosis issue
with hyperension, arises in relation to the simple equipment used to test blood...read more »
Spitz nevi misdiagnosed as dangerous melanoma skin cancer: One possible misdiagnosis to
consider in lieu of melanoma is spitz nevi.
See melanoma and spitz nevi....read more »
Children with migraine often misdiagnosed: A migraine often fails to be
correctly diagnosed in pediatric patients.
These patients are not the typical migraine sufferers...read more »
Read more about Misdiagnosis and Leukemia
Leukemia: Research Doctors & Specialists
Research related physicians and medical specialists:
- Cancer Specialists:
- Ear, Nose & Throat Specialists:
- Child Health Specialists (Pediatrics):
- more specialists...»
Other doctor, physician and specialist research services:
Hospitals & Clinics: Leukemia
Research quality ratings and patient safety measures
for medical facilities in specialties related to Leukemia:
Hospital & Clinic quality ratings »
Choosing the Best Hospital:
More general information, not necessarily in relation to Leukemia,
on hospital performance and surgical care quality:
Leukemia: Rare Types
Rare types of diseases and disorders in related medical categories:
Latest Treatments for Leukemia
See full list of 20
latest treatments for Leukemia
More Leukemia animations & videos
Prognosis for Leukemia
More about prognosis of Leukemia
Research about Leukemia
Visit our research pages for current research about Leukemia treatments.
Clinical Trials for Leukemia
The US based website ClinicalTrials.gov lists information on both federally
and privately supported clinical trials using human volunteers.
Some of the clinical trials listed on ClinicalTrials.gov for Leukemia include:
See full list of 1376
Clinical Trials for Leukemia
Statistics for Leukemia
Leukemia: Broader Related Topics
Types of Leukemia
Leukemia Message Boards
Related forums and medical stories:
User Interactive Forums
Read about other experiences, ask a question about Leukemia, or answer someone else's question, on our message boards:
Definitions of Leukemia:
A malignant (clonal) hematologic disorder, involving hematopoietic stem cells and characterized by the presence of primitive or atypical myeloid or lymphoid cells in the bone marrow and the blood. Leukemias are classified as acute or chronic based on the degree of cellular differentiation and the predominant cell type present. Leukemia is usually associated with anemia, fever, hemorrhagic episodes and splenomegaly. Common leukemias include acute myeloid leukemia, chronic myelogenous leukemia, acute lymphoblastic or precursor lymphoblastic leukemia, and chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Treatment is vital to patient survival; untreated, the natural course of acute leukemias is normally measured in weeks or months, while that of chronic leukemias is more often measured in months or years. -- 2004
- (Source - Diseases Database)
Malignant neoplasm of blood-forming tissues; characterized by abnormal proliferation of leukocytes; one of the four major types of cancer
- (Source - WordNet 2.1)
Contents for Leukemia:
User Surveys and Discussion Forums
» Next page: What is Leukemia?
Medical Tools & Articles:
Tools & Services:
Forums & Message Boards
- Ask or answer a question at the Boards: