How Long Can You Live With Leukemia Without Knowing – Whether you’ve just been diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CML) or have been living with the condition for a while, you may not fully understand how this type of cancer affects your body’s blood cells. Take a look at this infographic and see what CML means for your body and your overall health.
Every cell in your body contains genetic material that tells the cell how to behave. It’s DNA, and it’s located in the cell’s chromosomes. In CML, abnormal chromosomal changes cause the bone marrow to produce too many types of white blood cells called granulocytes.
How Long Can You Live With Leukemia Without Knowing
Over time, immature white blood cells, called blasts, begin to accumulate. As the number of blasts continues to increase, it becomes more difficult for the bone marrow to produce normal white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets.
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Most people with CML have a particular genetic mutation called the Philadelphia chromosome. Although it is a genetic condition, the Philadelphia chromosome is not hereditary, so you will not pass it on to your children.
At first, you may have CML with only mild symptoms or none. Some early symptoms are unpredictable and may include general weakness, fatigue, and night sweats. You may experience unexplained weight loss and fever.
With CML, you have immature white blood cells. These bombs keep building up in your bones and blood. As they multiply, they clump together and slow the production of healthy white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets.
CML usually results in a high white blood cell count. Most of these white blood cells are ineffective bombers. Therefore, you actually have few healthy white blood cells. This is called leukopenia. You may have low neutrophils, a type of white blood cell that fights bacterial infections. This is called neutropenia.
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Abnormalities of these white blood cells increase the risk of serious infections and other illnesses. Some treatments for CML can make neutropenia worse. Symptoms of infection include fever and fatigue.
Lack of red blood cells is called anemia. Symptoms include general weakness and fatigue. Anemia makes your heart work harder. As it gets worse, it can also lead to shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat, and chest pain. You may have cold hands and feet and your skin may look pale. Some treatments for CML can make the anemia worse.
Thrombocytopenia occurs when you have a low platelet count. Because it interferes with clotting, you are often bruised even after a small bump. You will also find that you bleed easily. Your gums may bleed after brushing your teeth or you may have a nose bleed for no reason. You may notice red or purple spots due to small amounts of blood under the skin (petechiae).
Not everyone with CML has low platelet counts. In fact, you may have too many. This is called thrombocytosis. However, these pads can be abnormal, so bruising and bleeding can still be a problem.
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Bone marrow is part of the lymphatic system and is where CML begins. Blood stem cells for white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets are produced in your bone marrow.
Chromosomal abnormalities lead to the production of abnormal white blood cells. Over time, abnormal white blood cells build up in your bones and blood. Therefore, you have no room for healthy white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. It is also very difficult for new healthy blood cells to grow.
The spleen is another important part of your lymphatic system. Part of his job is to filter and store special blood. With CML, this can lead to swelling or enlargement.
A symptom of a large bone spur is pain on the left side, just below the rib cage. You may feel full, even if you haven’t eaten or have eaten very little. Over time, you may not want to eat as much, which can cause you to lose weight. Weight loss can also be caused by some of the drugs used to treat CML.
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Some drugs used to treat CML can cause heart symptoms. This is especially true if you have a history of heart disease or other health conditions.
Rare but serious side effects of some CML medications include irregular heartbeat, left ventricular dysfunction, and congestive heart failure.
Sometimes leukemic cells migrate from your bone marrow to the surface of the bone. Leukemia cells can also spread to your joints. One of the symptoms of bone metastases is bone and joint pain, which can get worse as the disease progresses.
Chemotherapy and other treatments for CML can cause problems with the digestive system. These can include nausea, vomiting, and heartburn. You may have inflammation of the mouth, throat, or intestines. You may have diarrhea or constipation. Some medications can cause you to lose your sense of taste and smell. This symptom can cause a lack of appetite and weight loss.
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Chemotherapy drugs work by killing rapidly growing cells. Many of these drugs are used to treat CML. Some, but not all, can cause temporary hair loss. They can also affect your toenails and fingernails, making them brittle and weak. Other medications can cause skin problems, such as rashes, tenderness, and itching.
Cancer and cancer treatment can affect your mental and emotional health. It is not uncommon to feel sadness, anxiety, fear or frustration. Some people go through periods of mourning.
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The word leukemia is derived from the Greek words meaning “white” (leukos) and “blood” (haima). Leukemia is cancer (abnormal cell growth) of the blood and bone marrow. Unlike other cancers, leukemia does not produce a mass (tumor), but causes an abnormal overproduction of white blood cells.
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Leukemia begins in immature or developing bone cells, the soft, spongy tissue found in the central cavity of the bone. Bone marrow produces all types of blood cells: red blood cells that carry oxygen and other materials to body tissues; white blood cells that fight infection; and platelets which help harden blood vessels. Hundreds of billions of new blood cells are produced every day in the bone marrow, providing the body with a constant supply of fresh, healthy cells.
In leukemia patients, many types of white blood cells produced in the bone marrow do not develop normally. These abnormal cells, called leukemic cells, cannot fight infection like healthy white blood cells do. As they grow in number, leukemic cells also interfere with the production of other blood cells.
Leukemia is often thought of as a childhood disease, but it actually affects many adults. Indeed, the frequency of the disease increases with age. Leukemia is more common in men than in women and more common in Caucasians than in African Americans. Nearly 30,000 cases are diagnosed in the United States each year.
There are many types of leukemia, which are categorized by the type of white blood cells involved. White blood cells include neutrophils and monocytes, which ingest (eat) bacteria and other pathogens; eosinophils and basophils, which are involved in allergies; and lymphocytes, which play an important role in our body’s immune system.
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The main types of leukemia are myeloid and lymphocytic, and each type has acute (rapid progression) and chronic (slow progression) forms. Acute leukemia mainly affects young or not yet fully developed cells, preventing them from growing and functioning normally. Chronic leukemia grows slowly, so the body still has healthy cells to fight infection.
In addition, there are various subtypes of leukemia. Lymphocytic leukemia subtypes include hairy cell leukemia, Waldenstrom’s macroglobulinemia, prolymphocytic leukemia, and lymphomatous cell leukemia. Among the subtypes of myeloid leukemia are myeloid, promyelocytic, monocytic, erythroleukemic, and megakaryocytic leukemia.
In many cases, people in the early stages of leukemia have no obvious symptoms. When symptoms appear, they may include:
Loss of general health. Other symptoms of leukemia include loss of appetite and weight, discomfort under the left lower rib (caused by a swollen spleen, also due to collection of abnormal lymphocytes), and feeling permanently weak or tired. In some cases, people with leukemia
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