Any type of cancer is scary – leukemia is no exception. Blood cells are formed within the soft tissue of bones, called the bone marrow. Leukemia, which is cancer of the blood cells, is a progressive disease in which the bone marrow produces abnormal leukocytes, or white blood cells. In fact, the word “leukemia,” literally means “white blood.” Here are 10 symptoms of leukemia you should be aware of.
Immune cells in the body are responsible for protecting the body from foreign invaders. When they aren’t functioning properly, it sets the body up for infection and other disease states.
The Four Types Of Leukemia
There are four different types of leukemia, each being differentiated in terms of how quickly the disease develops, along with the type of cell abnormality. Cells made in the bone marrow that can be impacted by leukemia include:
- White blood cells, which are responsible for fighting infections
- Red blood cells, which are vital for transporting oxygen to the cells and tissues of the body
- Platelets, which are responsible for clotting.
Blood cells begin as immature cells, eventually maturing to perform their various functions. In cases of acute leukemia, cells don’t progress past the immature phase. Contrast this to chronic leukemia, where immature cells progress, but go on to adversely affect normal cells.
Immature cells cause damage by overcrowding the circulatory system, impeding normal immune function. This immune system dysregulation is problematic on many fronts as it prevents the body from mounting the resources to protect itself against infection and disease. Red blood cell production is also impeded.
Acute Vs Chronic
- Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML): In this type of leukemia, an abundance of unhealthy white blood cells are produced in the bone marrow. CML primarily affects adults between the ages of 20-50, eventually progressing to an acute form of leukemia if left untreated. The disease affects the myeloid cells, and progresses slowly in the beginning stages.
- Chronic Lymphocyctic Leukemia (CLL): This type is similar to CML, where too many abnormal white blood cells are produced. CLL primarily affects people over the age of 55. It rarely affects children and is twice as common in men. The disease affects the lymphoid cells, and is slow-growing. Symptoms may not be apparent.
- Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML): More people suffer from this acute form of leukemia than the three other types, including adults and children. AML is characterized by an abundance of abnormal red and white blood cells made in the bone marrow. It affects the lymphoid cells and progresses rapidly.
- Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL): In this type of cancer, the bone marrow makes too many abnormal white blood cells. It’s the most common form of leukemia in children, but can affect adults, as well. ALL involves the lymphoid progenitor cells, and is an aggressive-growing cancer.
Risk Factors For Leukemia
Certain factors may increase the risk of developing leukemia, and any type of cancer, for that matter. Risk factors include: exposure to chemicals, smoking, including second-hand smoke, a family history of leukemia, and certain genetic disorders, such as Down syndrome.
Benzene is a known carcinogen associated with leukemia. It is found within the gasoline industry in a variety of paints, glues, and automotive products. Previous cancer treatment, including chemotherapy and radiation, are risk factors as well.
However, these and other risk factors are only one metric for potentially developing the disease. Many people diagnosed with leukemia do not have any known risk factors. On the other hand, those without leukemia may have several factors that increase risk, yet they’re disease-free.
Symptoms Of Leukemia
Leukemia presents with a number of symptoms that are dependent on the type of leukemia, as well, as the stage. Early detection is vital in order to achieve the most favorable outcome.
1. Excessive Weight Loss
People with leukemia, and many cancers in fact, experience a loss of appetite, which is likely the result of other symptoms, and not directly tied to the cancer itself. Excessive weight loss is often one of the initial signs people notice because it’s so visible.
We all know how difficult it can be to lose weight when implementing targeted diet and lifestyle strategies. When a person loses more than a couple of pounds a week, without doing anything intentional, consider it a red flag.
2. Chronic Flu-Like Symptoms
Flu-like symptoms can present in people with leukemia. An increase in temperature is the body’s way of ridding itself of infection. Harmful micro-organisms cannot thrive in warm environments. This is why fevers are effective in controlling infections. A flu virus will typically resolve on its own within a week or two. If symptoms persist longer in duration, it’s time to visit a doctor to rule out anything more serious.
Those with leukemia and lymphoma have a hard time regulating body temperature. Alternating chills, fever, and excessive sweating are indications the body is trying to keep the temperature within a normal range. Symptoms are problematic if they become chronic.
3. Swollen And Bleeding Gums
Interestingly, dentists may be the first to suspect leukemia, which can manifest as swollen and bleeding gums, as well, as gingivitis. These symptoms, together with unexplained weight loss and exhaustion, can be indicative of something more serious.
Negative effects on oral health are likely due to leukemia’s deleterious effects on the immune system. Adding insult to injury, chemotherapy may accentuate the problem, due to issues with clotting, making the mouth more susceptible to infection.
Exhaustion and fatigue are the result of the body’s effort to resist infection and disease. Bone-weary fatigue, that is not alleviated by rest, may be caused by a reduction in healthy red blood cells. Hemoglobin, a component of red blood cells, is responsible for carrying oxygen to every cell in the body. When this process is impeded, the person can become anemic, and experience debilitating fatigue.
Those with cancer run the risk of acquiring secondary infections, due to the dysfunction of their white blood cells, which further decreases energy.
5. Pain In The Bones And Joints
Although, leukemia is cancer of the blood, the disease originates in the bones. Blood cells are produced in the bone marrow of long bones – when malignancies within the bone marrow develop, it can cause the joints and bones to hurt. Co-morbid infections can also contribute to pain, which sadly, is often constant, even while sleeping.
6. Urinating More Than Usual
The kidneys are amazing organs. They promote health by excreting waste and toxins from the bloodstream. One way they do this is through urination. If you find yourself having to urinate more often, especially over a period of time, it could be cause for concern. Visit your doctor to determine any serious underlying causes that may be causing increased urination.
7. Excessive Bruising
Bruises affect the skin, but are in fact, blood related. Of the three types of blood cells produced in the bone marrow, platelets are the ones responsible for clotting. Cuts and bruises that don’t heal, within a reasonable amount of time, may be caused by a low-platelet count.
Spontaneous and excessive bruising, accompanied by bleeding gums or unexplained and frequent nose bleeds, could be indicative of a serious underlying condition like leukemia.
8. Chronic Headaches
Leukemia affects white blood cell production. Abnormal immune cells can cause obstructions within the delicate blood vessels of the brain, leading to frequent, migraine-type headaches.
Headaches are a prime example of the importance of viewing possible symptoms of leukemia collectively, rather than individually, as headaches are quite common, and can be caused by a variety of factors.
9. Enlargement Of The Liver And Spleen
The organs of the body work together like a well-orchestrated symphony. Individual parts don’t function in a vacuum, but rather in harmony with each other. The lymphatic system works in tandem with the circulatory system, as do the liver and spleen.
The spleen is like a large lymph node that filters the blood, removing old red blood cells. If it becomes distended and enlarged, it can press on organs, including the stomach and liver, leading to abdominal pain and discomfort. It can also cause appetite-suppression.
10. Inflamed Tonsils
Enlarged tonsils are typically not a sign of cancer and are particularly common in children. Tonsils are lymph tissue that swell in response to infection. If swelling persists that inhibits the ability to breathe or swallow, further evaluation should be initiated.
Swollen tonsils are usually not a hallmark of leukemia, unless other glands are swollen, as well. As always, the complete profile needs to be taken into account.
Chemotherapy and radiation are conventional treatments for leukemia. Chemotherapy, the first line of defense against leukemia uses toxic chemicals to eradicate both healthy and malignant cells.
Radiation uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells, while also inhibiting their growth. Unlike chemotherapy, which is delivered orally or intravenously, radiation is applied to specific areas of abnormality.
Stem-cell transplants are used to treat leukemia. Healthy bone marrow from a donor is used to replace diseased bone marrow. Before this can take place, malignant bone marrow is destroyed using radiation and high-dose chemotherapy. Healthy stem cells are then transferred, in the hope that they’ll produce normal cells over time.
Targeted therapy for leukemia uses inhibitors that target proteins within malignant cells, with the intent of halting their growth. Unlike chemotherapy and radiation, targeted therapy does not harm healthy cells. Oral drugs are used to treat CML, ALL, and AML.
Complementary cancer therapies are a great adjunct to conventional cancer treatments because they fortify the body, reduce uncomfortable side effects and accelerate recovery. High-dose vitamin and mineral supplementation replenishes nutritional stores that support healthy immunity, including high-dose vitamin C, and cancer-killing herbs.
Mind-body therapies, such as visualization, biblical mediation, and deep breathing help to alleviate mental and emotional symptoms, such as depression and anxiety, that are common when one is dealing with a cancer diagnosis.
Of course, this is just a small sampling of the many complementary and alternative therapies available. Ozone, high-dose enzyme therapy, parasite protocols, rife machines, saunas, detoxification techniques, nutritional therapy, Essiac tea, HBOT, and many other natural therapies and supplements are used.
[Read More: The Benefits Of Essiac Tea For Cancer]
Cancer is associated with toxicity – it’s no wonder the disease has reached epidemic proportions with the incredible amounts of toxins that are in our food supply, water supply and environment. There are a whole range of health-building therapies you can do right in the comfort of your own home to strengthen your immune system.
For instance, you can buy portable saunas that can be used therapeutically at home to remove toxins deep within fatty tissue. Saunas are outstanding for not only preventing cancer, but as an adjunct therapy to boost detoxification.
Leukemia, is a type of blood cancer that affects the function and production of blood cells. If you or someone you love is experiencing unexplained weight loss, chronic flu-like symptoms, exhaustion that doesn’t let up, bleeding gums, and achy joints, it’s time to investigate further. Individual symptoms are not indicative of the disease itself, but should be viewed in their entirety, to determine what’s going on internally.
Do you have personal experience with leukemia? Let me know in the comments:)
(1) NCBI: Acute Myeloid Leukemia
(2) PubMed.gov: Leukemia: an overview for primary care
(3) US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Acute lymphoblastic leukemia: a comprehensive review
(4) Bestpractice.bmj.com: BMJ Best Practice
(5) American Cancer Society: Leukemia
(6) Leukemia & Lymphoma Society: Leukemia, a type of cancer that affects the blood and bone marrow
(7) Medical News Today: What to know about leukemia
(8) MedlinePlus: Leukemia
(9) Cancer Treatment Centers of America: Types of leukemia
(10) MDAnderson Center: Leukemia
Disclaimer: This article is strictly for informational purposes only and is not intended to be medical advice. Please be diligent and always do your own research in regard to any material I present on this site. I claim no responsibility for any distress, whether it be physical or emotional, that may occur as a result of the information you obtain from my blog.