Leukaemia is a type of cancer that originates from the tissues of the body that form blood. These include the bone marrow and the lymphatic parts of the lymphatic system. Leukaemia can occur in many forms, some of which are more common in children and others occur in adults. Leukaemia most commonly affects white blood cells. White blood cells are an indispensable component of the immune system, and they normally grow and multiply in an orderly manner. In patients with leukaemia, however, excessive amounts of abnormal white blood cells are formed by the bone marrow, which does not function normally.

Too little normal cells and too many leukemic cells are harmful for many different reasons:

  • Leukaemia cells have no function in maintaining the health of the body. Because of these cells, normal cells are left with very little space. They can’t multiply and mature inside the bone marrow freely as leukemic cells take them over.
  • As a result, fewer healthy white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets are produced and released into the blood. So, the tissues and organs of the body don’t get enough oxygen required to function properly. Also, the body loses the ability to form blood clots or fight against infections when needed.

Symptoms of Leukaemia

The symptoms of leukaemia are often vague and non-specific. The early symptoms may be neglected because they closely resemble flu and other common illnesses. The symptoms depend on the variant of leukaemia a patient has. The common symptoms, however, include:

  • Fever with chills
  • Persistent tiredness and weakness
  • Frequent or severe infections
  • Unexpected weight loss
  • Enlarged lymph nodes and liver or spleen
  • Spontaneous bleeding or bruising
  • Frequent bleeding from the nose
  • Small red spots in the skin or petechiae
  • Excessive night sweating
  • Pain or tenderness in the bones

If you persistently experience any of the above symptoms and it worries you, you can visit Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, Indore and make an appointment with our expert doctor.

Causes of Leukaemia

Genetic and environmental factors combined are responsible for causing leukaemia. Leukaemia occurs when some blood cells undergo mutations in their DNA. DNA contains the information to direct the cell to function properly and control its growth. When the DNA is mutated, the cells divide and grow abnormally, which gives rise to a tumour. Over time, these abnormal blood cells replace the healthy blood cells, giving rise to signs and symptoms of leukaemia.

Types of leukaemia

  • Acute leukaemia
    The abnormal blood cells in this type of leukaemia are called blast cells. They are incapable of carrying out normal functions and multiply rapidly, so the disease worsens quickly. Aggressive and timely treatment is required for acute leukaemia cases.
  • Chronic leukaemia
    Chronic leukaemia is of many types. In some types, too many blood cells are produced, and in some other types, too few cells are produced. The abnormal cells in chronic leukaemia are more-mature.
  • Lymphocytic leukaemia
    It involves the lymphocytes, the cells which make up the lymphatic tissue. Lymphatic tissues are the basic components of the immune system. Lymphocytic leukaemia is further divided into many types:
  • Acute lymphocytic leukaemia (ALL)
    It is the most common form of leukaemia in young children. Rarely, it can occur in adults.
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL)
    CLL is the most common chronic leukaemia in adults. It has a relatively good prognosis.
  • Myeloid leukaemia
    Myeloid cells are involved in this type of leukaemia. Myeloid cells give rise to red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelet-producing cells. Myeloid leukaemia is also divided further into sub-types:
  • Acute myeloid leukaemia (AML)
    It is the most common form of acute leukaemia in adults. It can occur both in children and adults.
  • Chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML)
    It is more common in adults. The patients of CML have very few to no symptoms for a very long time.

There are other rarer types of leukaemia, such as hairy cell leukaemia, myelodysplastic syndromes and myeloproliferative disorders.

Risk factors for Leukaemia

  • Treatment of previous cancers
    People who have been exposed to certain types of chemotherapy and radiation therapy for previous cancers are more susceptible to some forms of leukaemia.
  • Genetic disorders
    Certain genetic diseases like Down syndrome are linked to a higher risk of developing leukaemia.
  • Exposure to certain chemicals
    There is an increased risk of developing certain types of leukaemia in people exposed to chemicals like benzene.
  • Smoking
    Smokers are more susceptible to developing myeloid leukaemia.
  • Family history of leukaemia
    The risk of developing leukaemia is more in individuals whose family members suffer from the disease.

Please note that the presence of these risk factors does not necessarily mean that you will develop leukaemia. Also, several patients with leukaemia have none of these risk factors.

Diagnosis of Leukaemia

Chronic leukaemia is often diagnosed through routine blood tests before the symptoms begin. If it happens, certain diagnostic tests are carried out to confirm the diagnosis:

  • Physical examination
    Examination of the whole body is performed to look for any signs of leukaemia such as pale skin, enlarged lymph nodes, and enlargement of abdominal organs like the liver and spleen.
  • Blood tests
    A blood test is used to determine if there are abnormal levels of white blood cells or platelets in the blood suggestive of leukaemia. Blood tests may also show the presence of certain abnormal cells specific to different kinds of leukaemia.
  • Bone marrow test
    A sample of bone marrow may be removed from the hip bone using a long, thin needle. It is sent to the laboratory to be examined properly for any abnormal cells suggestive of leukaemia.

Treatment of Leukaemia

Treatment for leukaemia depends on the variant of leukaemia and certain other factors. Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital is one of the best Leukaemia treatment hospitals in Indore. Our oncology team formulates your leukaemia treatment plan based on your age, overall health, the variant of leukaemia you have, and the extent of its spread to other parts of the body, including the central nervous system. The treatment of leukaemia can be quite challenging, but our cancer care team uses strategies and resources that help make your treatment successful, making our hospital the best blood cancer hospital in Indore.

  • Chemotherapy
    Chemotherapy is the main treatment modality used to treat leukaemia. Specialised drugs are used to destroy cancerous cells. A single drug or a combination therapy may be used depending on the type of leukaemia you have.
  • Targeted therapy
    This treatment modality focuses on specific defects and abnormalities within the cancer cells, causing their destruction.
  • Radiation therapy
    This therapy employs X-rays or other types of high-energy rays to destroy the cancer cells and prevent them from growing. Radiation therapy is sometimes used to prepare the body for a bone marrow transplant.
  • Bone marrow transplant
    A bone marrow transplant helps replace the unhealthy bone marrow cells with healthy leukaemia-free stem cells, which help in the regeneration of the healthy bone marrow. We provide the best bone marrow treatment in Indore. Before bone marrow transplant, high doses of chemotherapy or radiation therapy are given to damage the leukaemia-producing bone marrow cells, followed by an infusion of blood-forming stem cells that help regenerate the bone marrow.
  • Immunotherapy
    This therapy stimulates the body's immune system to fight cancer cells more effectively. Many cancer cells have proteins that hide them from the immune system. Immunotherapy works by hampering that process.
  • Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-T cell therapy
    During this therapy, germ-fighting T cells of the body are taken, engineered to attack cancer cells more effectively, and then introduced back into the body. It is very helpful in treating certain types of leukaemia.

You may receive ongoing leukaemia treatments in phases or in long-term depending on your treatment plan. Generally, there are three parts involved in phased treatments, with each part having a specific goal. Following are the three phases of leukaemia treatment:

  • Induction therapy
    The goal of this therapy is to damage as many leukaemia cells in the blood and bone marrow as possible so that remission is achieved. During remission, the blood cell count comes back to normal and there are no leukaemia cells in the blood. All signs and symptoms of the disease disappear as well. The consolidation therapy is usually received in cycles, over 4-6 months.
  • Maintenance therapy
    The goal of this therapy is to damage any leukaemia cells left after the first two treatment phases. This prevents relapse of the disease and treatment lasts for around two years. Your leukaemia treatment may be resumed or changed by your healthcare provider if there is a relapse.

Receiving a diagnosis of cancer can be scary, and if it’s a leukaemia, the fear is a lot more. Imagining what the treatment experience will be like with a tumour can be difficult for anyone. But you must remember that the outcomes differ for each patient and you must never lose hope. Without understanding your leukaemia and overall health, no one can predict your outcome. You can discuss any questions regarding leukaemia you have with your healthcare provider. If you are located in Indore, you can visit the Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, Indore and get an appointment with an expert doctor who can guide you to the next step.