Living with Leukemia

Leukemia is cancer of the blood cells. It begins in the bone marrow where blood cells are made and is characterized by blood cells that grow abnormally and/or uncontrollably. There are four main types of leukemia: Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML), and Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML). Acute and chronic refer to the speed at which the leukemia develops (acute is rapid, chronic is slow); lymphocytic and myelogenous refer to the types blood affected. AML is most common form of leukemia in adults, and ALL is the most common form in children. More than 45,000 new cases of leukemia are diagnosed in the United States each year, and survival rates vary widely depending on the patient's age, the type of leukemia, and the stage at which it is diagnosed.

Contrary to popular belief, 90% of leukemias occur in adults. Causes of leukemia include smoking; exposure to certain chemicals, such as benzene; and exposure to high levels of radiation. Men also have a higher risk of developing leukemia than women. Symptoms include fever, fatigue, night sweats, loss of appetite, and weight loss. Leukemia is staged differently for each type, and whether the disease has been contracted by a child or an adult. In each, doctors consider the extent to which the leukemia has spread when prescribing treatment. Leukemia treatments include chemotherapy, radiation and stem cell transplantation.

For more information on leukemia, read the American Cancer Society's detailed guide.

If you have been affected by leukemia, please be sure to take some time to read others' experiences, share your own experiences, and ask or answer questions. Don't forget to view our Beginner's Guide to Cancer.

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