Leukaemias are grouped in two ways: the type of white blood cell affected - lymphoid or myeloid; and how quickly the disease develops and gets worse. Acute leukaemia appears suddenly and grows quickly while chronic leukaemia appears gradually and develops slowly over months to years.
Acute leukemia symptoms can often appear suddenly
With acute leukemia, symptoms tend to develop very quickly. You may suddenly spike a fever that won't go away, develop an infection for no apparent reason, or start bleeding spontaneously from your nose or gums and not be able to stop it.
Chronic leukemia involves more-mature blood cells. These blood cells replicate or accumulate more slowly and can function normally for a period of time. Some forms of chronic leukemia initially produce no early symptoms and can go unnoticed or undiagnosed for years.
In terms of how quickly it develops or gets worse, leukemia is classified as either acute (fast-growing) or chronic (slow-growing): Acute leukemia is rapidly progressing and results in the accumulation of immature, functionless blood cells in the bone marrow.
About acute myeloid leukaemia
Acute leukaemia means it progresses rapidly and aggressively, and usually requires immediate treatment. Acute leukaemia is classified according to the type of white blood cells affected. The 2 main types of white blood cells are: lymphocytes – mostly used to fight viral infections.
Leukemia starts in the soft, inner part of the bones (bone marrow), but often moves quickly into the blood. It can then spread to other parts of the body, such as the lymph nodes, spleen, liver, central nervous system and other organs.
Stage 1 – A patient has high levels of white blood cells and enlarged lymph nodes. Stage 2 – A patient has high levels of white blood cells and is anemic. He or she may also have enlarged lymph nodes. Stage 3 – A patient has high levels of white blood cells and is anemic.
Some signs of leukemia, like night sweats, fever, fatigue and achiness, resemble flu-like symptoms. Unlike symptoms of the flu, which generally subside as patients get better, leukemia symptoms generally last longer than two weeks, and may include sudden weight loss, bone and joint pain and easy bleeding or bruising.
Age: The risk of most leukemias increases with age. The median age of a patient diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML), chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) or chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) is 65 years and older. However, most cases of acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) occur in people under 20 years old.
If caught early, leukemia can be cured by undergoing several cancer treatments.
Your doctor will conduct a complete blood count (CBC) to determine if you have leukemia. This test may reveal if you have leukemic cells. Abnormal levels of white blood cells and abnormally low red blood cell or platelet counts can also indicate leukemia.
The following factors may play a role in the development of all types of leukemia: Certain chromosome problems. Exposure to radiation, including x-rays before birth. Past treatment with chemotherapy drugs.
Causes of leukaemia
The cause of acute leukaemia is unknown, but factors that put some people at higher risk are: exposure to intense radiation. exposure to certain chemicals, such as benzene. viruses like the Human T-Cell leukaemia virus.
By looking at a sample of your blood, your doctor can determine if you have abnormal levels of red or white blood cells or platelets — which may suggest leukemia. A blood test may also show the presence of leukemia cells, though not all types of leukemia cause the leukemia cells to circulate in the blood.
Often referred to as a “silent disease,” CLL can be difficult to diagnose, because people often don't have any symptoms until later in the disease, and others have symptoms that resemble signs of other conditions, such as a cold.
During the progression of leukemia, white blood cells (neoplastic leukocytes) found in bone marrow may begin to filter into the layers of the skin, resulting in skin lesions. “It looks like red-brown to purple firm bumps or nodules and represents the leukemia cells depositing in the skin,” Forrestel says.
People in stages 0 to II may live for 5 to 20 years without treatment. CLL has a very high incidence rate in people older than 60 years. CLL affects men more than women. If the disease has affected the B cells, the person's life expectancy can range from 10 to 20 years.
Many people with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) won't have any symptoms at all. They are diagnosed because they have a routine blood test for something else. In CLL symptoms tend to be mild at first and get worse slowly. Many symptoms are vague.
Who gets leukemia? Although it is often thought of as a children's disease, most cases of leukemia occur in older adults. More than half of all leukemia cases occur in people over the age of 65.
They occur in unusual places – In cases of leukaemia, quite often bruises will appear in places that you wouldn't normally expect, especially; the back, legs, and hands.