Leukaemia

Leukemia (American English) or leukaemia (British English) is a type of cancer of the blood or bone marrow characterized by an abnormal increase of immature white blood cells called "blasts". Leukemia is a broad term covering a spectrum of diseases. In turn, it is part of the even broader group of diseases affecting the blood, bone marrow, and lymphoid system, which are all known as hematological neoplasms.

Signs and symptoms may include bruising and bleeding, a higher rate of suffering from infections and shortness of breath. Some patients experience other symptoms, such as feeling sick, having fevers, chills, night sweats, feeling fatigued and other flu-like symptoms. Some patients experience nausea or a feeling of fullness due to an enlarged liver and spleen; this can result in unintentional weight loss. Blasts affected by the disease may come together and become swollen in the liver or in the lymph nodes causing pain and leading to nausea.

No single known cause for any of the different types of leukemia exists. The known causes, which are not generally factors within the control of the average person, account for relatively few cases. The different leukemias likely have different causes.

Diagnosis is usually based on repeated complete blood counts and a bone marrow examination following observations of the symptoms, however, in rare cases blood tests may not show if a patient has leukemia, usually this is because the leukemia is in the early stages or has entered remission. A lymph node biopsy can be performed as well in order to diagnose certain types of leukemia in certain situations.

Most forms of leukemia are treated with pharmaceutical medication, typically combined into a multi-drug chemotherapy regimen. Some are also treated with radiation therapy. In some cases, a bone marrow transplant is useful.

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