Facing Two Very Scary Words – Leukemia Lymphoma

Leukemia, Lymphoma: these are two of the scariest words anyone could ever hear in a doctor’s office. It doesn’t matter if it is you, personally, mother, father, child, spouse, friend; the fear is just as bad if it is about someone that means something to you. First of all, you will want to know exactly what type of cancer it is. Leukemia and lymphoma are blood cancers. Since you have the diagnosis there are things that need to be taken care of immediately.

First of all, get a second opinion in an entirely different practice. You want to be completely sure before you start thinking about treatments. The next thing you should do is find a support group. There are programs at all hospitals that have cancer centers. Leukemia and lymphoma (Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin and myeloma) sufferers need professionals who are schooled in these types of cancer. These diseases affect everyone in the family of the person diagnosed. There are family support groups as well as peer groups.

Leukemia is cancer of the white blood cells. These are the part of the blood that fights infection. Leukemia is uncontrolled multiplication or growth of the white blood cells. There are several types of leukemia and, luckily, it is very treatable in most situations. Acute leukemia starts quickly and grows fast whereas chronic leukemia happens over a long period of time.

Lymphoma is cancer of the lymph glands and cells and includes overgrowth of lymphocytes.

Cause for either leukemia or lymphoma is not known. These are two of the three types of blood cancer; the other is multiple myeloma.

These types of cancer are difficult to diagnose early because their symptoms are non specific. Some of the symptoms are: easy bruising, night sweats, swollen lymph nodes (without pain), and fever without infection, unexplained bleeding, weight loss, bone and joint pain. These symptoms depend on the type of blood cancer involved. In multiple myeloma, there is often bone and joint pain as a first symptom because of destruction of the bone cells. Leukemia is suspected with chronic anemia, night sweats, recurring infections. When lymphoma is suspected it often depends on the size and location of the swollen lymph glands.

10% of all new cancers are from these three blood cancers. For children, leukemia is the most common type of cancer. People with leukemia are at risk for infections. There is treatment though chemotherapy and radiation, as well as bone marrow transplant in some cases.

What are the risk factors for development of leukemia or lymphoma? High exposure to radiation either through tests or during a person’s job increases the likely hood of getting leukemia. Smoking increases the chances of getting leukemia. Certain illnesses like Down syndrome increase the chances. A person with a family history of leukemia has an increased chance of having it later in life.

Leukemia patients do not always have treatment. If the illness is dormant, cancer treatment may be put off until it surfaces. The physicians will treat the other symptoms of the illness while waiting. Some leukemia patients have chemotherapy; some are treated with radiation. There is also a target method of treatment that allows the illness to be blocked. This treatment is sometimes difficult for the patient to handle.

by Herb Leibacher

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