What is blood cancer or leukemia?

          Leukemia or blood cancer is a fatal disease of the blood-forming tissues wherein abnormal white blood cells are found in the blood stream. It can occur at any age and in either sex. It is even more dangerous because its cause is still unknown. Do you know what happens in this disease?

          Blood is a vital body fluid and all its constituents have a specific function. Blood has a large number of red blood cells and a comparatively smaller number of white blood cells. The red blood cells carry oxygen to all the tissues of the body. The white cells defend the body. White blood cells are produced mainly in the bone marrow and lymph glands. In the case of leukemia, something goes wrong with the tissues that produce white cells. So these cells start multiplying at an abnormal rate. A person afflicted with leukemia may have 30 to 60 times the normal number of white blood cells that a healthy person has. Simultaneously, the rate of production of red blood cells becomes extremely slow and this causes anaemia. 

          Even the behaviour of the sex cells becomes abnormal. The afflicted person is liable to infection and there can be haemorrhage in nose, gums or internal organs. The lymph glands and spleen get swollen. The patient might get fever and develop pain in the legs. In the initial stage one loses weight and appetite and feels weak and fatigue. Slight fever also persists.

          There are two main varieties of leukemia – myetogenous and lymphatic. Both may be acute or chronic. Acute forms may be fatal within weeks or a few months, while chronic forms may not lead to death for 3 to 10 or more years. The cause of this disease is not known but it occurs more to the people who are exposed to radiations and chemicals.

          Medical sciences have progressed in the treatment of leukemia. Drugs are given to destroy the abnormal cells, and patients may be treated with X-rays and radioactive isotopes. Sometimes doctors also go in for blood transfusion. Chemotherapy is also effective in leukemia.