What Are The Symptoms Of Leukemia?
Any type of cancer is scary, and leukemia is no exception. Blood cells are formed within the soft tissue of the bones, called the bone marrow. Leukemia, 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.” These immune cells 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. What are the symptoms of leukemia?
The Four Types Of Leukemia
There are four different types of leukemia. Each type is differentiated in terms of how quickly the disease develops, and cell abnormality type. Blood cells, made in the bone marrow, include white blood cells, which are responsible for fighting infections, and red blood cells that are vital for transporting oxygen to the cells and tissues of the body. Platelets are also made within the bone marrow, and 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 can progress, but go on to negatively impact 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 the body can’t mount the resources to protect itself from infections and disease. The production of new blood cells 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 affects mainly adults within the ages of 20-50, and will eventually progress to an acute form of leukemia if not treated. This type of leukemia affects the myeloid cells. It grows slowly at 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 age 55. It rarely affects children and is twice as common in men. This type of cancer affects the lymphoid cells, and grows slowly. It may not cause any symptoms.
- Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML): More people suffer from this acute form of leukemia than the three other types. In AML, too many unhealthy red and white blood cells, and even platelets, are made in the bone marrow. This form of leukemia is the most common form, affecting both adults and children. AML affects the lymphoid cells, and grows quickly.
- Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL): The bone marrow makes too many abnormal white blood cells in this condition. This is the most common form of leukemia in children, but can also affect adults. ALL affects the lymphoid cells, and is a fast growing cancer.
Risk Factors For Leukemia
Certain factors may increase your risk of developing leukemia, and any type of cancer for that matter. Exposure to chemicals, smoking, including second hand smoke, a family history of leukemia, and certain genetic disorders, like Down syndrome may predispose someone to getting leukemia.
Benzene is a known carcinogen associated in leukemia, and can be found in 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 don’t have any known risk factors. On the other hand, those without leukemia may have several factors that increase their risk, yet they are disease-free.
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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
Those with leukemia, and most cancers, 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 first signs people notice because it’s so visible. We all know how hard it is to lose weight when implementing targeted diet and lifestyle strategies. When a person loses more than a couple pounds a week, without doing anything different, consider it a red flag.
2. Chronic Flu Like Symptoms
Flu-like symptoms, such as fever and chills, are common in most disease and infectious conditions. It’s the body’s way of ridding itself of pathogens, in this case cancer, by increasing body temperature. 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 than this, it’s time to visit your 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. These symptoms are problematic if they become chronic.
3. Swollen And Bleeding Gums
Interestingly, dentists may be the first practitioners to detect cancer. Leukemia affects dental health, and often presents as swollen and bleeding gums, as well as gingivitis. These symptoms, together with unexplained weight loss and exhaustion, my be indicative of something more serious, such as leukemia.
The negative effects on oral health are likely due to leukemia’s deleterious effects on the immune system. Adding insult to injury, chemotherapy accentuates these issues, due to issues with clotting. The mouth, then becomes more susceptible to infection.
4. Exhaustion And Fatigue
Exhaustion and fatigue are the result of the body’s efforts to resist an infection or disease. This type of bone-weary fatigue is not alleviated by rest, and is caused by a decrease in healthy red blood cells. Hemoglobin, the protein molecule within these cells, is responsible for carrying oxygen to each cell of the body. It also transports iron, which is necessary to prevent anemia and extreme tiredness.
When this process doesn’t happen as it should, debilitating fatigue can occur. 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 cells within the bone marrow become abnormal and cancerous, the joints and bones can hurt and become achy. Infections and medication can also cause pain.
This condition, unfortunately can be ever present, even during sleep, and becomes increasingly more painful as the disease progresses.
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 may seem like a skin condition, 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 an indicator of a serious underlying condition like leukemia.
8. Chronic Headaches
Leukemia affects white blood cell production. When these immune cells become abnormal, as they do in this type of cancer, they can cause obstructions within the delicate blood vessels of the brain. This obstruction can lead 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. The 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, and removes old red blood cells. If it becomes distended and enlarged, it can press on organs like the stomach and liver, leading to abdominal pain and discomfort. It can also lead to a suppressed appetite.
10. Inflamed Tonsils
Enlarged tonsils are usually not a sign of cancer, and are particularly common in children. Tonsils are lymph tissue that swell in response to infection. They increase in size to combat infectious micro-organisms. As an example, mononucleosis is a condition characterized by enlarged tonsils.
If the swelling persists, inhibiting the ability to breathe or swallow, further evaluation needs to be initiated. Swollen tonsils are typically not a hallmark of leukemia, unless other glands are swollen as well. As always, the complete profile needs to be taken into account.
What Are The Treatment Options
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 intravenously or orally, radiation is applied to specific areas of abnormality.
Stem cell transplants, are an effective method, used in the treatment of leukemia . Healthy bone marrow from a donor is used to replace diseased bone marrow. Before this can take place, unhealthy bone marrow is destroyed using radiation, and high-dose chemotherapy. The healthy stem cells can then be transferred, with the hope that they will produce healthy cells in time.
Targeted therapy for leukemia uses inhibitors, that target proteins within leukemia cells, with the intent of halting their growth. Unlike chemotherapy and radiation, targeted therapy does not harm healthy cells, only malignant ones. Oral drugs are used to treat CML, ALL, and AML.
Complementary And Alternative Therapies
Alternative medicine is a great adjunct to traditional cancer treatment as it helps fortify the body, reduces uncomfortable side effects, and accelerates recovery. High-dose vitamin and mineral supplementation replenishes nutritional stores, supporting healthy immunity. Vitamin C, along with cancer-killing herbs, are used to strengthen immune function.
Mind-body therapies, such as meditation, yoga, deep breathing, and energy healing, help alleviate mental and emotional symptoms, like 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 to treat cancer.
Cancer is associated with toxicity, and has become epidemic with the incredible amounts of toxins that are in our food and water supply, and environment. I have an infrared sauna in my home, which is amazing for sweating out toxins deep within fatty tissue.
You can buy portable saunas that can be used therapeutically from the comfort of your own home. Saunas are outstanding for not only preventing cancer, but as an adjunct therapy for treating it. Compared to the cost of cancer treatment, they’re a steal. Here’s a highly recommended one.
Key Points To Remember
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? Please take the time to leave a question, comment, or suggestion below. It may help someone reading this post!