Last updated date: 09-Jun-2023

Originally Written in English


Leukemia is a type of blood cancer that affects the blood-forming tissues, the lymphatic system, and the bone marrow. It’s generally a chronic disease that consists of various kinds. While some types of leukemia are common among minors, others mostly affect adults. 

Leukemia occurs due to an increase in the number of white blood cells in the body. The initial aim of the white blood cells is to protect the body by fighting against any infections. The more the body requires them, the more they grow and multiply. However, in patients with leukemia, the blood-producing tissue, bone marrow, manufacture excess abnormal white blood cells. This causes malfunctions in the body. 


Causes of Leukemia 

According to medical research studies, leukemia begins due to changes or mutations of the single-cell DNA in the bone marrow. These changes cause the bone marrow cells to function abnormally and affect their normal development. 

DNA is characterized by an instruction code that controls the growth and functionality of the cells. DNA also comprises segments that form genes that are positioned on wide structures referred to as chromosomes. 

The cells that develop as a result of initial cell mutation also have mutated DNA. The actual causes of the DNA damages are still not known. However, medical experts have located some of the chromosome changes among patients diagnosed with various types of leukemia. 

Usually, the DNA informs the cells to develop at a certain set rate and at the same time die at a set period. However, in leukemia, the mutations notify the blood cells to keep on growing and multiplying. 

If this happens, the production of the blood cells gets uncontrollable. With time, the abnormal cells tend to overcrowd the normal blood cells with the bone marrow. This results in limited normal white blood cells, platelets, and red blood cells, which eventually cause leukemia signs and symptoms. 


Classification of Leukemia 

Medical experts usually categorize leukemia depending on two main factors, including the progression speed and the associated types of cells. 

The types of leukemia according to the progression speed or how fast advances include; 

Acute leukemia: With acute leukemia, the abnormal blood cells tend to be immature. This means that they cannot perform the usual functions as expected. Furthermore, they grow and divide rapidly; hence the condition worsens within a short period. In general, this type of leukemia requires timely and aggressive treatment. 

Chronic leukemia: Typically, there are several forms of chronic leukemia. While some tend to produce excessive cells, others result in limited production of blood cells. Unlike acute leukemia, chronic leukemia is associated with mature cells, which replicate and pile up gradually. At times, they function as usual for a certain period. Other types of chronic leukemia don’t cause any early symptoms and sometimes go undiagnosed for months or years. 

The classifications of leukemia according to the altered type of white blood cells include; 

Myelogenous or myeloid leukemia: This form of leukemia occurs and affects the myeloid cells. These myeloid cells bring about white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelet manufacturing cells. 

Lymphocytic leukemia: This type of leukemia develops and impacts the lymphocytes (lymphoid cells). The role of lymphoid cells involves forming the lymphatic or lymphoid tissue, which makes up the body's immune system. 

Lymphocytic leukemia

Overall, the main types of leukemia include; 

Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL): This is one of the most prevalent leukemia forms that mostly affect young children. Sometimes, it can also develop in adults.

Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML): This is another common kind of leukemia that develops in infants, young children, teenagers, and adults. However, it’s the most common form of acute leukemia among adults. 

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL): This is a common type of chronic leukemia in adults. However, individuals with this condition do not experience any symptoms. Furthermore, they can feel healthy for some months or years without necessarily requiring any treatment. 

Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML): This kind of leukemia mostly develops among adults. An individual with this condition can experience few to no signs and symptoms for some months or years. This is before they go into the stage where the leukemia cells advance more rapidly.


Signs and Symptoms of Leukemia 

The signs and symptoms of leukemia often vary depending on the types of disease, extent, age, and overall health. However, the commonleukemia symptoms you are likely to experience include; 

  • Extreme tiredness and weakness that persists even after resting 
  • Excess sweating, particularly during the night 
  • Bone pain, swelling, or tenderness 
  • Unexplainable weight loss 
  • Swollen but painless lymph nodes in the armpits or neck 
  • Spleen or liver enlargement 
  • Easy bruising and bleeding 
  • Red spots that develop on the skin 
  • Frequent infections 
  • Chills and fever 


Diagnosing Leukemia 

Sometimes, the doctor can detect symptoms of chronic leukemia during a routine blood test even before the symptoms commence. In such a case, the doctor can order more diagnostic tests and examinations to assess the condition further. 

These diagnostic procedures and tests include; 

  • Physical examination

This is usually the first diagnostic procedure. It involves physical assessment of leukemia signs, including swollen lymph nodes, spleen or liver enlargement, or pale skin due to anemia. 

  • Blood tests

Blood tests

If the doctor identifies signs of leukemia during a physical examination, they will conduct a blood test. By analyzing the blood sample, they can easily identify abnormal levels of white blood cells, red blood cells, or platelets. This may indicate leukemia. 

Doctors can also use blood tests to check the presence of leukemia cells. However, not every form of leukemia triggers the cells to travel through the bloodstream. Others cause the leukemia cells to remain within the bone marrow. 

  • Bone marrow test

Depending on the initial tests and examination results, the doctor can suggest a procedure to extract a bone marrow sample from the hipbone. A long, slender needle will be used to remove the bone marrow sample. It’s then brought to the lab to analyze the presence of leukemia cells. The outcome of this test enables the doctor to determine a suitable treatment option. 

  • Additional tests

In case the doctors notice symptoms that may point to complications of the disease, they can order other additional tests. Imaging tests such as chest x-ray, MRI scan, and CT scan enables the doctor to visualize the extent of leukemia. It also allows them to acquire detailed images of the internal organs and structures. Alternatively, they can order a spinal tap (lumbar puncture). This helps check if cancer has stretch to the spinal fluid near the spinal cord and brain. 


Leukemia Treatment 

When it comes to leukemia treatment, there are several factors to consider. The doctor can administer treatment depending on the type of leukemia and if it has metastasized to other body parts. It can also include the central nervous system. Other factors they can consider include the age and general health of the patient. 

Overall, the most common treatment options of leukemia include the following; 

  • Chemotherapy 

This is the main form of leukemia treatment which uses strong chemicals to destroy the leukemia cells. Based on the type of leukemia, the doctor can administer chemotherapy treatment as a single medication or combination of drugs. They can also deliver in the form of pills or direct injection through the vein. 

  • Radiation therapy 

This treatment form uses x-rays or high-energy beams to destroy leukemia cells and prevent them from growing. When administering radiation therapy, the doctor can ask you to lie on a specialized table. A large machine will then rotate around you while directing radiation energy to certain areas of the body. 

The doctor can direct radiation to a particular body part with an accumulation of leukemia cells or the entire body. Sometimes, they can use radiation therapy to help get ready for the bone marrow transplant procedure. 

  • Target therapy 

Targeted therapy focuses on certain abnormalities or defects present in the leukemia cells. It blocks the anomalies, causing the cancerous cells to die. However, before administering targeted drug treatment, the doctor can first test the leukemia cells. This helps determine if the procedure will be effective in addressing the condition. 

  • Bone marrow transplant 

Bone marrow transplant 

This can also be referred to as the stem cell transplant. It’s a treatment option to restore the normal stem cells. This is through the replacement of the unhealthy bone marrow with healthy, leukemia-free bone marrow. This will eventually restore and produce healthy stem cells. 

Before a bone marrow transplant procedure, the doctor will administer high doses of radiation therapy or chemotherapy. This helps destroy the bone marrow-producing leukemia cells. The stem cells can come from another donor, or your cells can be used. 

  • Immunotherapy 

This treatment triggers the body's immune system to combat the cancerous cells. Usually, leukemia alters the immune system and the ability to attack and fight cancer. This is because it creates proteins that enable them to conceal from the defense system cells. However, immunotherapy interferes with this process. 



Leukemia or blood cancer is a chronic health condition that affects the blood and the blood-forming tissues. While there are several types of leukemia, some are more common among children, while others mostly affect adults. However, the treatment will depend on the type of leukemia, the extent, overall health, and the age of the patient. 

CloudHospital is thus a dedicated healthcare platform that aims at helping all patients with leukemia. It works with several medical experts who specialize in diagnosing, treating, managing, and preventing leukemia.