What is Leukemia?

What is Leukemia

Leukemia, also called blood cancer, is one type of cancer that occurs in our bone marrow. It is the type of cancer which affects children more than any other type of cancer. It is caused mainly due to an increase in the white blood cells in our body.

How is it formed?

Leukemia is formed in stem cells in the bone marrow.  The stem cells are the basic cells that possess the ability to develop into the specialized cell types in the body. Many stem cells specialize and organize into organs like liver, brain and heart.-But in some tissues, the stem cells divide into new ones which help in the development of an adult. Stem cells differentiate into -:

  • Red blood cells which help in carrying oxygen.
  • White blood cells which destroy harmful substances.
  • Platelets which help in the clotting of blood.

When something goes wrong in stem cell specialization process, a harmful mutation occurs in the DNA. Some damaged cells replicate uncontrollably which are known are cancer cells.

Why is it found more among children?

The exact reason why leukemia is found more in children is not yet found out but one of the contributing factors is that Leukemia is caused by just one or two DNA modifications. This could be the reason why it is found more in children. Certain changes in the DNA inside the bone marrow cells can lead to an out of control growth of the cells forming leukemia cells. The DNA alterations can occur in white blood cells during fetus development which increases the risk of early leukemia.

What happens in a leukemic patient?

When a patient is diagnosed with leukemia, the damaged cells get reproduced in the bone marrow until they occupy all the space in the bone marrow. This results in lack of red blood cells, platelets and white blood cells hence increasing the risk of infection. A leukemia patient is thus prone to all forms of infections and so the patient must be very well taken care of.

Treatment

Leukemic cells cannot be removed surgically. Chemotherapy is one of the methods used to treat cancer. A combination of drugs which destroy quickly multiplying cells is used in the process. But this also kills the healthy cells found in hair follicles or intestines which leads to complete loss of hair and other problems.  In some cases, the entire stem cells are destroyed. Stem cells could also be transplanted from a donor. Even though it is a complicated process, this process proves to be effective in curing cancer.

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