There is no known way to prevent leukemia.
People with leukemia are at significantly increased risk for developing infections, anemia, and bleeding. Other symptoms and signs include easy bruising, weight loss, night sweats, and unexplained fevers.
Most patients with leukemia are treated with chemotherapy. Some patients also may have radiation therapy and/or bone marrow transplantation.
Chronic leukemia can rarely be cured, but treatment can help control the disease. If you have chronic lymphocytic leukemia, you may not need to be treated until you have symptoms.
If you have acute leukemia, you will need quick treatment to stop the rapid growth of leukemia cells. In many cases, treatment makes acute leukemia go into remission.
What type of treatment you need will depend on many things, including what kind of leukemia you have, how far along it is, and your age and overall health.
If your blood tests are not normal, the doctor may want to do a bone marrow biopsy. This test lets the doctor look at cells from inside your bone.
To find out if you have leukemia, a doctor will:
Ask questions about your past health and symptoms.
Do a physical exam. The doctor will look for swollen lymph nodes and check to see if your spleen or liver enlarged.
Order blood tests. Leukemia causes a high level of white blood cells and low levels of other types of blood cells.
Leukemia is linked to the following risk factors:
Genetic diseases, such as Fanconi's anemia or Down syndrome
Acquired diseases, such as Hodgkin's disease
First degree relative with leukemia
Excessive exposure to ionizing radiation
Chemical exposure (benzene)
Most causes of leukemia are not known. However, the disease has been linked to exposure to large amounts of high energy radiation (from nuclear bombs), occupational exposure to the chemical benzene, viral infections, and chemicals from cigarettes.
Signs and symptoms of leukemia include:
Shortness of breath
The most common leukemias are:
Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), which comprises 90% of all leukemias in children (although it also occurs in adults)
Acute myelocytic leukemia (AML), which mostly occurs in adults
Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), which mostly strikes adults over age 55
Chronic myelocytic leukemia (CML), which mostly occurs in adults
There are several types of leukemia, grouped as either acute (the diseases progresses rapidly) or chronic (the diseases progresses slowly).
The cancer cells spread to the bloodstream and lymph nodes. They can also travel to the brain and spinal cord (the central nervous system) and other parts of the body.
The term "leukemia" literally means "white blood."
The cancerous cells prevent healthy red cells, platelets, and mature white cells (leukocytes) from being made. Life-threatening symptoms may then develop.
But in people with leukemia, the bone marrow produces a large number of abnormal white blood cells, which don't function properly.
Leukemia usually starts in the white blood cells. Your white blood cells are potent infection fighters — they normally grow and divide in an orderly way, as your body needs them.