Leukemia Cancer Causes, Prognosis, Diagnosis, Signs, and Symptoms
Leukemia is a type of cancer that affects white blood cells. Because there are many forms of leukemia, prompt attention and an effective diagnosis are important in determining the most successful route of treatment.
What is Leukemia?
Each year, an estimated 44,790 new cases of leukemia are diagnosed in the United States. Leukemia affects the tissue in the cells that form blood, specifically, white blood cells, which help to fight infection. In a person with leukemia, the bone marrow contains abnormal white blood cells. When too many abnormal white blood cells are present, they may destroy normal blood cells, leaving the person susceptible to infection. There are several types of leukemia. Each type affects a different kind of white blood cell.
Types of Leukemia
Leukemia can be classified based on how quickly the disease develops. Leukemia can be either chronic, meaning the disease progresses slowly, and is difficult to diagnose early, or acute, meaning the number of leukemia cells increases rapidly.
The majority of leukemia cases can be diagnosed as one of the following types:
- Acute lymphocytic (lymphoblastic) leukemia (ALL)
- Acute myeloid leukemia (AML)
- Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)
- Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML)
These types are named for the type of white blood cell affected.
Other rare types of leukemia include:
- Hairy cell – These cases account for fewer than 6,000 cases each year.
The exact causes of leukemia are unknown. Some factors that may increase risk are:
- Radiation exposure – People exposed to high levels of radiation are more likely to be diagnosed with leukemia. Exposure can come from radiation therapy for other cancers and conditions or nuclear weapons.
- Smoking – The use of tobacco has been associated with an increased risk of a leukemia diagnosis.
- Benzene – This chemical is typically used to make other chemicals. It is a known carcinogen. Those who work in industries that use or make benzene may be at risk of developing leukemia.
- Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS) – a blood disorder in which the bone marrow does not make enough healthy blood cells. People with MDS and certain other blood disorders are at an increased risk of acute myeloid leukemia (AML)
More about Leukemia
Learn more about leukemia from the National Cancer Insititute.
Schedule an Appointment at UPMC CancerCenter
There are two ways to schedule an appointment at UPMC CancerCenter:
- Fill out the UPMC Request an Appointment Form online.
- Call 412-647-2811.
If you have an immediate medical need, please call 911 or go to an emergency room for treatment.