Hematology - LEUKEMIA

Hematology - LEUKEMIA

Hematology is the medical discipline that studies blood diseases and cancers originating from bone marrow and deals with their treatments.

WHAT IS LEUKEMIA?

Leukemia is a cancer of the blood that affects the blood product system. Leukemia is classified as acute or chronic according to propagation and development of the tumor. 

Generally, acute leukemia is the most common type of leukemia found among young children, while chronic leukemia is the most common type found among adults.

Acute leukemia is divided into 2 main groups according to the cell type: ALL (acute lymphoblastic leukemia) and AML (acute myeloid leukemia).

Chronic leukemia is also divided into 2 main groups according to the cell type: CML (chronic myeloid leukemia) and CLL (chronic lymphocytic leukemia).

These groups are also further subdivided. 

The code change of the main cells in the bone marrow, where the blood cells develop from, is called BLAST. These cells spread rapidly and hold the bone marrow, lymph nodes, spleen, liver, brain and central nervous system. 

WHAT ARE SYMPTOMS OF LEUKEMIA? 

- Fever and weakness - Anemia - Swelling of the lymph nodes - Pain in the bones or joints

- Bleeding or bruising easily (purplish patches in the skin, or tiny red spots under the skin). 

- Nosebleeds and bleeding gums - Weight loss

HOW IS LEUKEMIA TREATED?

The most common treatment of leukemia is very high-dose chemotherapy. The goal of this treatment is to destroy malignant cells, called BLAST. However, these chemotherapy drugs affect not only the malignant cells, but also damage vital and healthy cells and tissues. For this reason, chemo- therapy may cause hair loss, mouth and intestine sores, to name a few symptoms. Additionally, because of this, treatment may destroy the body’s defense cells, and hence, the immune system. This results in an immune system deficiency, which risks even a simple microbe to lead into a severe infectious disease.

For this reason, patients with leukemia put on masks to protect themselves against people around them and to avoid getting infections from the surrounding water and air.

BONE MARROW AND STEM CELL

Before the bone marrow transplantation, there is a process of collecting the main stem cells from patient or donor and giving them to the patient with leukemia. Bone marrow transplants can be performed on patients who suffer from leukemia, lymphoma and some other forms of cancer, when other treatments fail to produce results.

Sometimes very high doses of chemotherapy are given over the course of many days in conjunction with radiotherapy. High dose therapy damages the bone marrow and cell system. For that reason, immediately following the high dose therapy application, the patient is grafted his own stem cells ( treatment) or donor’s stem cells (allogeneic transplant).

STEM CELL BASED HIGH-DOSE CHEMOTHERAPY

Some types of cancer require a very high-dose chemotherapy. This process is applied in the cases of high risk, repeated cancer types such as lymphoma or bone morrow transplantations. High dose chemotherapy damages the bone marrow and cell system. For that reason, before the therapy, bone marrow and stem cells are provided from the patient (autologous treatment) or from donors (allogenic transplant).

These types of applications are used in the following cases:

1- Repeated lymphoma

2- Acute leukemia

3- Plastic anemia

4- Multiple myeloma

5- Myelodysplastic syndromes

6- Thalassemia

7- Testicular cancer

Side effects and risks are different depending on the type of treatments (autologous and allogeneic treatment).