Leukemia is a blood cancer that affects the white blood cells in your body that are normally in charge of fighting infections and diseases.
Those who suffer from leukemia have corrupted white blood cells that crowd out the healthy cells and lead to serious problems. Leukemia can grow fast or slow and there are several types.
Watchful waiting may be an option for some people with a chronic leukemia who do not have symptoms. This involves close monitoring of the disease so that treatment can begin when symptoms develop.
Watchful waiting allows the patient to avoid or postpone the side effects of treatment. The risk of waiting is that it may eliminate the possibility of controlling the leukemia before it worsens.
There are a number of different medical approaches to treat leukemia. Treatment will typically depend upon the type of leukemia.
Treatments for leukemia include chemotherapy (major treatment modality for leukemia), radiation therapy, biological therapy, targeted therapy, and stem cell transplant. Combinations of these treatments may be used.
“For adults, the typical age [for leukemia onset] is anywhere from 50 to 70,” says Martha Wadleigh, MD, clinical director of the Adult Leukemia Program at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. “The symptoms depend on the subtype,” subtypes of leukemia are defined on which kind of blood cells mutate and also how early in the cell production process mutation takes place says Meredith Barnhart, MS of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Information Resource Center.
But there are some overlapping symptoms that tend to show up among those suffering from the more common types of adult leukemia.
HERE’S WHAT TO WATCH OUT FOR:
Pale skin”When leukemia develops, new [blood] cells that are damaged by cancer can overtake bone marrow, and so make it difficult for healthy cells to grow,” Barnhart explains. “Because you have fewer healthy cells, you may develop anemia, which can lead to pale skin.” Anemia could also cause your hands to feel cold all the time, experts say.
As is the case with many other diseases, fatigue is a common symptom of leukemia, Wadleigh says. If you’re feeling wiped out all the time, and especially if your lack of energy is a noticeable change from how you used to feel, tell your doctor. Anemia may also be to blame for your fatigue.
INFECTIONS OR FEVERS
Your blood cells are an important component of your immune system. If they’re unhealthy, as is the case for those with leukemia, you can expect to get sick more frequently, Wadleigh says. “Infections or fevers are one of the most common symptoms we see,” she adds.
SHORTNESS OF BREATH
Along with feeling sapped of energy, shortness of breath is something to keep an eye on, Barnhart says. Especially during physical activity, if you notice you’re out of breath—and that breathlessness seems like a change from what you’re accustomed to—you’ll want to let your doctor know about it.
If your cuts and scrapes take forever to heal, or you feel like you bruise easily, those symptoms could indicate the kinds of blood cell shifts associated with leukemia, Barnhart says. Small red dots on your skin—a condition known as petechiae—could also result from leukemia, she adds. “Petechiae usually appears on the lower extremities,” Wadleigh adds.
While not as common as the five symptoms mentioned above, night sweats and achy or painful joints are also linked to leukemia, Barnhart says.
“Weight loss may or may not be a symptom, depending on the subtype,” Wadleigh adds. She also mentions nose bleeds, swollen or enlarged lymph nodes, and fever or chills as possible symptom.
Source: Nature Health and Beauty