Leukemia is the disease of the blood or bone marrow that is characterized by an abnormal increase in white blood cells in the body. Causes of leukemia are not fully understood and no single known cause is thought to cause the disease, though DNA mutations are known to underlie this disease as much as any other cancer.
There is little if anything that can be done to prevent the disease from occurring, however it is important to know the risk factors and the symptoms of the disease.
The known risk factors of leukemia are –
- Genetic predisposition or having close family members with leukemia is known to put a person at greater risk of developing the disease.
- Certain chromosomal abnormalities and other genetic conditions such as Down’s Syndrome also raise leukemia risk.
- Previous cancers are known to raise leukemia risk and previous exposure to cancer treatments such as chemo therapy and radiation is also known to increase risk.
- Exposure to other kinds of radiation such as accidents relating to atomic or nuclear radiation or other carcinogens also increases risk.
- Working with or exposure to certain chemicals such as benzene is thought to impact risk.
- Certain kind of viruses such as the Human T-Cell Leukemia Virus which is transmitted through sex or blood transfusions or from mother to baby is also a known risk factor.
- Smokers are more at risk of developing leukemia than non smokers.
The most commonly seen signs and symptoms of leukemia are –
- A decreased immunity or the body being prone to frequent infections may be among the symptoms of the disease since it impacts the white blood cells of the body; often referred to as the soldiers of the body since they protect from infections invasions.
- Enlargement of the spleen or the liver may be noted, and there may also be swelling of the lymph nodes. There could be painless lumps in the neck, groin or underarm or stomach.
- An unexplained weight loss and a loss of usual appetite may be seen.
- Fever with or without chills may also be among the symptoms.
- The person may find that they bleed easily and without much as much reason. Since a person bleeds easily even bruising (which is bleeding beneath the skin due to some trauma) may be seen more frequently.
- A pale cast to the skin may be seen.
- Feeling tired or weak all the time are also among the usually observed symptoms.
- The bones and/or joints may hurt of feel tender.
- There could be excessive sweating experienced and this could be particularly acute at night.
- Tiny red spots may be seen under the skin – these are known as petechiae.
Rather than these individual symptoms (many of which are no cause for concern by themselves) it could be a combination of them that could alert a person to the fact that something is very wrong indeed.
Taken by themselves, some of the early symptoms may be akin to common infections such as the flu and are important not to overlook so that a timely diagnosis is made.