Leukemia is a type of cancer that is very common nowadays. It does not choose who it attacks: men, women, children, adults, Caucasian, African-American, Asian, Hispanic – we are all at risk. According to the latest survey conducted, almost 44,000 people will be diagnosed with leukemia by 2010. It is now 2011. However, with developments that we have had in the aspect of health and medicine, the outcome of leukemia is looking bright. There is now a significant increase in the survival rate – a little over 50 per cent. That might not be a very big number for you, but compared to the 1970s when they only had a 14 per cent chance of survival, 50 per cent is almost like being disease-free. Won’t you agree?
Surviving leukemia would largely depend on the severity of the disease by the time it gets diagnosed. As you could deduce, an earlier diagnosis of leukemia would give a better prognosis as compared to a late detection. Knowing which symptoms to look out for would be a great help in getting the earliest treatment possible. The following would be the most common symptoms of leukemia:
• Fever and recurrent infections. The reason behind this is that in leukemia, you do not have mature white blood cells to combat foreign bodies. You do not have a good defense system to protect you from invading viruses.
• Fatigue. Leukemia is a condition where there is a massive production of abnormal white blood cells. These cells would take up a lot of space, thus impeding the production of other types of cells. Since the production of red blood cells is decreased in the process, oxygen delivery to your various systems would also be decreased. This is what’s causing fatigue.
• Bleeding and/or easy bruising. Bleeding, when associated with cancer, is painless. The same goes with bruising. A normal bruise would be tender when touched. Bruising, as related to leukemia, does not have any pain at all. Platelets, the ones responsible for clotting, are decreased in leukemia. This causes the bleeding and the bruising.
• Petechiae. They are tiny, rash-like spots found on the skin. Unlike rashes, though, petechiae are not itchy. This is caused by the rupture of capillaries and a decrease in platelet count.
• Pain. All types of cancer have pain. In the case of leukemia, it is bone or joint pain. This should not be confused with symptoms of bone cancer, though. The pain in bone cancer is caused by the compression of nerves due to tumor growth. In leukemia, the pain is caused by the overcrowding of blood cells in the bone marrow.
There are many other symptoms of leukemia, but the aforementioned would be the most common of the lot. If you experience any of those mentioned above, consult with your doctor immediately. If you get treatment early in the disease, there is a chance that the cancer cells might be eradicated and you would be one of the few survivors who would live to tell your story about battling with death.
by Danica Susan