Conditions InDepth: Leukemia
by Michael Jubinville, MPH
Cancer is a disease in which cells grow in an abnormal way. They are supposed to divide in a controlled way to replace old or damaged cells. With leukemia, blood cells grow and divide quickly, making more than are needed.
Normal Blood Cells and the Development of Leukemia
All blood cells start in the bone marrow as stem cells. Stem cells mature into many types of blood cell that have certain roles in the body. These are:
New, healthy cells are made in the bone marrow. This keeps the number of blood cells in a healthy range. With leukemia, too many abnormal cells are made and they crowd out the bone marrow. This makes it hard for new, healthy cells to be made. Cancer moves around the body in the blood and lymph streams. This keeps organs like the spleen, liver, brain, and lymph nodes from working as they should.
Types of Leukemia
Leukemia is grouped by how fast it grows and the type of blood cell affected. The groups are:
Leukemia is also grouped by the bone marrow cells it starts in:
Common types of leukemia include:
What are the risk factors for leukemia?
What are the symptoms of leukemia?
How is leukemia diagnosed?
What are the treatments for leukemia?
Are there screening tests for leukemia?
How can I reduce my risk of leukemia?
What questions should I ask my doctor?
What is it like to live with leukemia?
Where can I get more information about leukemia?
Acute lymphoblastic leukemia/lymphoma (ALL). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Updated October 17, 2018. Accessed March 14, 2019.
Acute myeloid leukemia (AML). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Updated August 14, 2018. March 14, 2019.
Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)/small lymphocytic leukemia (SLL). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Updated November 21, 2017. Accessed March 14, 2019.
Chronic myeloid leukemia. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Updated January 4, 2018. Accessed March 14, 2019.
Leukemia. Leukemia & Lymphoma Society website. Available at: https://www.lls.org/leukemia. Accessed March 14, 2019.
Leukemia—patient version. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/leukemia. Accessed March 14, 2019.
Overview of leukemia. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/hematology-and-oncology/leukemias/overview-of-leukemia. Updated December 2018. Accessed March 14, 2019.
Last reviewed December 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP
Last Updated: 3/14/2019
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