Leukemia is a type of cancer of the blood and bone marrow that happens when the body makes too many abnormal white blood cells. These abnormal white blood cells are not able to fight infections, but only impair the ability of the bone marrow to produce other important blood cells like red blood cells and platelets.
Last Updated: February 21, 2024

Leukemia occurs when the genetic information of cells that produce white blood cells become mutated over time. This leads to increased production of immature white blood cells that are unable to function normally. Various factors may increase the chances of developing leukemia, including: • Exposure to high levels of radiation • Repeated exposure to certain chemicals (for example, benzene) • Chemotherapy • Down Syndrome • A strong family history of leukemia • Increasing age

Symptoms vary depending on the type and stage of leukemia, but they can include the following: • Fever, chills, night sweats and other flu-like symptoms • Weakness and fatigue • Swollen or bleeding gums • Headaches • Enlarged liver and spleen • Swollen tonsils and lymph nodes • Bone pain • Pallor • Tiny red spots on the skin • Weight loss • Frequent infections

To diagnose leukemia, a doctor will usually conduct a complete blood count (CBC). This test may reveal if you have leukemic cells. Abnormal levels of white blood cells and abnormally low red blood cell or platelet counts can also indicate leukemia. If an individual tests positive for leukemia, a biopsy of the bone marrow is then done to determine which type of leukemia the person has. Treatment depends on various factors like the person’s age, general health, and type of leukemia. He/she may receive a combination of treatments that could include chemotherapy, targeted therapy, radiation therapy, and stem cell transplantation.

Because the exact cause of leukemia remains unknown, there is no certain way to prevent it. However, avoiding exposure to solvents, such as benzene and toluene, and unnecessary exposure to radiation may reduce the risk of developing leukemia in the future.
Last Updated: February 21, 2024