Next to brain tumors, leukemia is highly mortal. It causes the most concerned and is a reason for long term hospitalization. Leukemia is simply cancer of the white blood cells or leukocytes. White blood cells (WBCs) are responsible for helping the body fight against infection. These cells are generated in the bone marrow. In a normal situation, there is no problem with WBC`s maturity, but in a leukemic tendency, WBCs becomes immature, enormous, and abnormal in quality and quantity. Leukemia (American English) or leukaemia (British English) indicates an abnormal increase of immature white blood cells called "blasts”. Rudolf Virchow in 1845 found leukemia for first time and he defined it in two terms: “Leukos” meaning "white” and “aima” meaning “blood" in Greek terminology. The nature of leukemic cells is destructive, and they tend to multiply at a different pace. There are four different types of leukemia based on the origin - whether it is from marrow or from lymphocytes. They are: Acute lymphocytic leukemia, Acute myeloid leukemia, Chronic lymphocytic leukemia, and Chronic myeloid leukemia.


Major forms of leukemia

Two major forms of leukemia are Acute and chronic. Acute leukemia is characterized by a rapid increase in the number of immature blood cells. Acute one is the most common form of leukemia in children. Chronic leukemia is characterized by excessive built-up of relatively mature, but still abnormal WBCs.

Causes of acute or chronic leukemia

  1. There is no specific cause or trigger that causes leukemia. Leukemia, like other cancers, results from mutations in the genes and DNA.
  2. Prolonged exposure to ionizing radiation, accidental exposure of the human body to few viruses, such as human T-lymphotropic virus, and benzene, alkylating agents, petrochemicals, and hair dyes may lead to the development of some forms of leukemia.
  3. There is no strong evidence of diet playing a role that contributed to the cause of leukemia.
  4. People suffering from Down`s syndrome have a significantly increased risk of acute leukemia.
  5. A few cases of leukemia can be due to fetoplacental (from mother to child) transmission.

Symptoms of leukemia

  1. Deprived coagulation process that occurs due to the replacement of normal platelets from leukemic cells that predispose one to bruise, bleed excessively and develop pinprick bleeds (petechiae).
  2. Dysfunction of WBCs: White blood cells will predispose one to experience frequent infection, such as infected tonsils, sore throat, fever, and pneumonia.
  3. RBCs destruction leads to anemia, cyanosis, pallor, weight loss, and fatigue.
  4. Some may manifest feeling of sickness, tiredness, night sweats, Hepatomegaly and Splenomegaly (enlargement of liver and spleen).
  5. Headaches, loss of memory, seizures due to neurological sequela.


  1. Combined strategy of chemotherapy and bone marrow transplantation or replacement could be a good approach. Surgery may not be the choice except to relieve any mass that occurred due to the metastasis of leukemic cells to other organs. Treatment decision-making is based on the stage and symptoms, falls in the hemoglobin or platelet count, progression of disease, presence or absence of overgrowth of lymph nodes and spleen, etc.
  2. Chronic lymphocytic leukemia is incurable by most drugs. Some of the common drugs used are chlorambucil or cyclophosphamide, plus a corticosteroid such as prednisone fludarabine and pentostatin.
  3. In case of acute lymphocytic type, chemotherapy induction and marrow transplantation are a good combination.
  4. Symptomatic therapy for seizures and fever, etc.