Leukemia refers to blood cells cancer. The blood contains red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Leukemia usually refers to the cancer of white blood cells. The white blood cells are crucial part of body’s immune system. They protect the body from bacterial, viral and fungal invasions as well as invasions of abnormal cells and foreign materials. With this condition, the body’s white blood cells do not function normally. They can in some cases divide too fast eventually crowding out the normal blood cells.
There are many hospitals in the United States that offer treatments for Leukemia. However, travel is needed to access these facilities. It is worth noting that insurance service providers cover medical expenses but not costs of travel. Individuals therefore need to make their own travel plans properly so that the cost of travel is kept at the minimum.
If you have already identified the hospital for your Leukemia treatment, consultation or second opinion, you can go ahead and plan your travel. Otherwise, you can check our list of hospitals in the country that provide comprehensive treatments for Leukemia. In case you are unable to meet your travel expenses, you can check our directory of charitable organizations that help in the arrangement of free travel for medical reasons.
Leukemia can be acute (occurring suddenly with cancer cells multiplying quickly) or chronic (occurring slowly with the disease progressing slowly and starting with very mild symptoms). The condition can also be classified according to the type of cells affected;
- Myelogenous Leukemia. Involves myeloid cells (immature blood cells that would become monocytes or granulocytes).
In this category, there are the following;
- Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) which can affect persons of any age and the most common leukemia type, having 21,000 new cases annually in US. The five year survival rate of this type of leukemia is 26.9%.
- Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) which mostly affect adults. 9,000 new cases of CML are recorded annually in the US. The five year survival rate of this type of leukemia is 66.9%.
- Lymphocytic Leukemia. Involves lymphocytes. In this category, we have the following;
- Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) which occurs commonly in children. 6,000 new cases of this type is annually recorded in US. The five year survival rate is 69.2%.
- Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) which mostly affect adults over 55 years. 20,000 new cases of this type are recorded annually in US. The five year survival rate is 83.2%.
Symptoms of Leukemia
The symptoms of leukemia are the following;
- bleeding and bruising easily
- bone pain and tenderness
- enlargement of the liver or spleen
- excessive sweating, especially at night (called “night sweats”)
- fatigue and weakness that don’t go away with rest
- fever or chills
- frequent infections
- painless, swollen lymph nodes (especially in the neck and armpits)
- red spots on the skin, called petechiae
- unintended weight loss
The disease can also cause symptoms in the parts of the body that have been penetrated or affected by these cancer cells. Additionally, the disease can affect other parts of the body like the following;
- gastrointestinal tract
Where to Go for Leukemia Treatment
There are many hospitals in the US that provide care to patients suffering from leukemia. These facilities have equipments and other resources that enable them provide the best comprehensive healthcare to patients. Among the best of these hospitals include the following;
- MD Anderson Cancer Center
The Leukemia Center in the MD Anderson Cancer Center is equipped with the latest medical technologies and resources to provide specialized healthcare to patients suffering from leukemia. The hospital has assembled internationally-known doctors who have dedicated their careers to advancing global knowledge about diagnosis and treatment of rare myeloproliferative disorders and myelodysplastic syndromes.
Treatment of Leukemia
In order to provide proper treatments, the doctor must first make proper diagnosis of leukemia. Complete medical history and physical examinations are needed for the purposes of making proper diagnosis. Biopsies, blood tests, and imaging tests are needed also because physical examination cannot be used to fully diagnose the disease.
Hematologist-oncologists are the professionals that usually treat leukemia, as the experts specializing in blood conditions and cancer. The treatment options depend on the stage and type of the cancer. The treatment options normally involve one or a combination of the following;
- These are drugs used to kill leukemia cells.
- Radiation therapy. Use of high energy radiation to destroy leukemia cells and prevent their growth.
- Stem cell transplantation (bone marrow transplant). Used to replace damaged bone marrow with healthy one.
- Biological immune therapy. Aimed at helping the white blood cells to recognize and fight cancer cells.
- Targeted therapy. Use of medications that capitalize on vulnerabilities in cancer cells. For instance, imatinib is a targeted medication used commonly on CML.
Risks Associated with Leukemia
What causes leukemia is not known. But several risks associated with Leukemia have been identified. These include the following;
- Blood disorders, such as myelodysplastic syndrome, which is also called “preleukemia”
- Exposure to chemicals such as benzene.
- Exposure to high levels of radiation
- Family history of leukemia
- Genetic disorders like Down syndrome
- Previous treatment for cancer with chemotherapy or radiation
- Smoking, which increases your risk of developing acute myeloid leukemia (AML)
Who Can Go for Leukemia Treatment
It is always advisable to have routine medical checkups. However, those experience the signs and symptoms of leukemia or with family history of the disease should seek medical attention as early as possible. Early diagnosis and treatment of leukemia increases the chance of success. Those individuals who are predisposed to or have high chances of getting the disease should also seek medical interventions for diagnosis and possible treatment. These include those with other blood complications, exposed to chemicals, radiation or smoking.