Leukemia is a type of cancer that affects the blood and bone marrow, the spongy tissue inside bones where blood cells are produced. It involves the uncontrolled production of abnormal white blood cells, which are responsible for fighting infections and other immune functions. Leukemia can disrupt the normal production of red blood cells and platelets, leading to anemia and bleeding problems.
The exact causes of leukemia are not fully understood, but certain risk factors have been identified. These include exposure to high levels of radiation, certain chemicals (such as benzene), certain genetic disorders, a family history of leukemia, and certain types of chemotherapy or radiation therapy used to treat other cancers.
Diagnosing leukemia involves a combination of medical history evaluation, physical examination, blood tests, and bone marrow biopsy. These tests help determine the type of leukemia, its subtype, and the extent of the disease (stage). Additional genetic and molecular tests may be performed to provide more precise information about the leukemia cells and guide treatment decisions.
The prognosis and long-term outcomes of leukemia vary widely depending on the type, subtype, stage at diagnosis, response to treatment, and individual patient factors. Advances in treatment have significantly improved survival rates for many types of leukemia, especially in children. Regular follow-up visits and surveillance are important to monitor for potential relapse or late effects of therapy. Supportive care, including management of symptoms, psychological support, and rehabilitation programs, is often provided to improve quality of life during and after treatment.