Leukemia Essay

Length: 1970 words

Leukemia is named after the Leukocytes, white blood cells that mutate and become cancerous before maturity. These cells reproduce rapidly, slowing down the production of white blood cells that are important in the fight against infection in the body. Leukemia also slows down the production of red blood cells that are needed to carry oxygen in the blood. Cancer cell may spread to the liver, spleen, lymph nodes, genitals, or the brain, leukemia is incurable and is the second leading cause of death for children ages 2-15 (Kagan 35). There are eight causes, five symptoms, and ten treatments for leukemia. There are eight causes for the cancer leukemia. The first cause of leukemia is population mixing. The most common cause for leukemia in children is population mixing. Studies have repeatedly shown of several such circumstances and might explain the excess cases seen in large remote nuclear installations.

The pattern of infections encountered by children mixing with their new peers may be different in such situations and could provide an extra challenge to their immune systems (Lilleyman 32) The second cause of leukemia is seeds sown from birth. From studies of leukemia arising in identical twins leukemia may have

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seeds sown from birth. The disease is not inherited rather it seems that in rare instances a defect can occur in lymphocytes located in the fetus and is directly or indirectly related to the rise of leukemia in children. If one twin develops leukemia there is an increased risk of the other child doing the same (Lilleyman 33) The third cause of leukemia is environmental radiation. Observed clusters of cases around nuclear installations have caused huge concern. While there is no doubt Heitzig 2 that large doses of radiation can cause leukemia, the unusual circumstances where this is know to happen are irrelevant to virtually all cases in child hood (Lilleyman 33).

The fourth cause of leukemia is viruses leading to the disease. Viruses certainly cause leukemia in cats and other animal species. A rare leukemia related cancer seen in Japan and the Caribbean is known to be due from a virus as the same family of HIV. Despite a vigorous search, none have been implicated so far in childhood leukemia (Lilleyman 34). The fifth cause of leukemia is electric magnetic fields. Why there might be an excess chance of adults developing leukemia if they live near pylons carrying high voltage national grid power cables or near to electricity substations is not clear, but the suggestion was made by some studies searching for new causes of leukemia. The theory has not been substantiated and has little credibility at the present time (Lilleyman 34). The sixth cause of leukemia is toxic and agricultural chemicals being released into the air. There may be a connection between toxic chemicals with aplastic anemia.

Some anti caner drugs can indirectly cause a type of AML, but leukemia actually occurring from these drugs is very infrequent and thankfully only occurs in a very small number of children. (Lilleyman 34) The seventh cause of leukemia is thought to be genetics. Some people can be genetically pre-disposed to leukemia. Chromosome abnormalities are associated with a pre leukiemic disease called myelodysplasia. Nine out of ten people with leukemia, for example, have an abnormal chromosome called the Philadelphia Chromosome in their blood cells. This chromosome is an acquired abnormality; it is neither inherited nor Heitzig 3 handed down to one’s children, instead this abnormality is slowly developed over time. (Lilleyman 35) The eighth cause for leukemia is environmental factors such as smoking.

Environmental seem to influence leukemia once the risk of developing a leukemia. Tobacco smokers are more prone to certain leukemia’s than none smokers. Research also suggests that prolong exposure to radiation, various chemicals in home and work environments, and low frequency electromagnetic fields may be associated with leukemia, but there is no definite proof (Lilleyman 36). There are five symptoms known for leukemia. The first symptom of leukemia is extreme fatigue. Just because someone gets a little bit tired and cranky, does not mean that they have leukemia. This kind of fatigue will affect the patient in every aspect of life. For example, the patient might be walking to his car and all of a sudden feel like he is going to collapse, or the patient might be at work typing and feel as though he has not slept for over a week, any person experiencing this symptom should immediately consult a physician (Lackritz 23).

The second symptom of leukemia is a painful swelling of lymph nodes or spleen. Generally lymph nodes are usually indistinct, might suddenly become visibly enlarged or palpable in the neck, groin, and under arms. Through this symptom pressure pain might occur when an enlarged node or organ pushes against a body part; drenching night sweats might also occur from lymph node swelling. The spleen and liver may become enlarged and painful as they press against other organs, resulting in a shortness of breath and a feeling of fullness (Lackritz 24). Heitzig 4 The third symptom of leukemia is nausea. This symptom is one of the later symptoms. This symptom might just start out as an upset stomach, but it can later escalate to a severe sickness of flu lasting for several days.

Often people will just suspect these feelings to be a regular flu bug and most likely they are right, but if this is occurring with other symptoms of leukemia then it should be immediately taken up with a physician (Lackritz 25). The fourth symptom of leukemia is a back and joint pain in the nighttime. This symptom most often occurs in senior citizens, causing one to think that the pain is just part of the aging process. Generally, the person afflicted by this symptom will go to a doctor and the pain will cease for a time. Then a week later a different pain will occur somewhere else, but like the last pain in a short while this pain clears up as well (Lackritz 26). The fifth symptom of leukemia is severe weight loss. This symptom might start out as a loss of appetite, and constant indigestion. The feelings of this symptom can be compared to the feelings that a women experiences while being pregnant. This later yields an extreme loss of weight (Lackritz 27).

There are ten treatments for leukemia. The first treatment for leukemia is a drug called aminopterin. In 1948, doctors developed a drug called aminopterin to treat 16 terminally ill children. Ten of these children showed a good response to the medication and in some people the disease completely disappeared (Lilleyman 47). The second treatment for leukemia is a combination of drugs called VAMP (Vinerstine, Aminopterin, Mercaptoprine, and Predprisone.) In the 1960’s, this disease Heitzig 5 had a new discovery that a combination of drugs given at one setting had an additive effect on the disease without additional harm on the patient. Using repeated pulses of schedules of this type, long remissions were achieved, but in most patients the disease eventually recurred and gradually became unresponsive to further treatment (Lilleyman 47). The third treatment for leukemia is a four-step process of chemotherapy.

First, the disease was made to remit with the least amount of toxic treatment possible. At the end of this phase, the person would regain normal health and bone marrow function. The second phase of chemotherapy was more aggressive with higher doses of drugs injected daily for a week to hit the disease as hard as possible. The third phase of chemotherapy was a radiation therapy to the brain and spinal cord to treat cells in the CSF. The final phase that lasted up to three years consisted of daily oral chemotherapy (Lilleyman 48). The fourth treatment for leukemia are drugs called Prednislone and Dexonethasone. These drugs are both steroid-based compounds. Not the bodybuilding type of steroid used by athletes but with the function of suppressing inflammation and also with the capacity to destroy lymphoblasts in ways that are not properly understood.

Prednislone and Dexonethasone are not damaging to other cells in the same way as other drugs used, but they can induce short remission in leukemia even if given on their own (Lilleyman 49). The fifth treatment for leukemia is a drug called Methotrexette. Methotrexette is the modern derivative of aminopterin, and interferes with the formation of DNA in dividing cells. Methotrexette is a relatively safe substance and can be injected into either Heitzig 6 the muscles or the spinal fluid, or taken by mouth without causing damage. Methotrexette is removed by the kidneys and comes out the urine. Large doses suppress normal bone marrow causing neutropenia and thrombocytopenia. Doctors are currently recommending very high doses taken into the blood and then giving an antidote 24 hours later to rescue the bone marrow while hopefully inflicting irreversible damage on leukaemic cells (Lilleyman 49-50).

The sixth treatment for leukemia is a drug called Vincristine. Vincristine stops cells from dividing during the actual process of the chromosomes splitting apart. Vincristine is a toxic substance that has to be injected directly into the bloodstream where it is rapidly diluted (Lilleyman 50). The seventh treatment for leukemia is a drug called Mercapopurine. Mercapopurine is a non-toxic compound that is usually taken by mouth. Mercapopurine has to be broken down in the body to become cyotoxic. Mercapopurine active chemicals are produced inside cells and then prevent the formation of DNA, thus interfering with cell division and killing leukemia cells (Lilleyman 50). The eighth treatment for leukemia are drugs called Dannorubirian and Adriamyrin. These are both powerful anti-leukaemic agents but are also very unpleasant substances. They kill cells indiscriminately, and so depress bone marrow production and cause low blood counts.

These drugs can also damage the heart muscle, so the amount the patient can have administered is very limited. (Lilleyman 51) The ninth treatment for leukemia is a drug called Cyclophosphanide. This drug is the first chemical compound seen to have an effect on human cancer growth. Heitzig 7 Cyclophosphanide has to be activated within cells before it becomes cyotoxic, so it is unpleasant to handle. This drug damages all cells, so bone marrow failure is a serious side effect (Dutcher 215). The tenth treatment for leukemia is a procedure known as bone marrow transplant. There are 11 steps to bone marrow transplant, and the first one is the decision for the procedure to be carried out. The second phase is a compatible donor must be found. The third phase is the patient has to be in remission from leukemia.

The fourth phase is that the donor has to be willing and medically fit to undergo a general anaesthetic and blood loss equivalent of up to two full blood donations from an adult. The fifth phase is that the recipient must have an indwelling central venous catheter. The sixth phase is the patient and donor are both given a thorough medical examination to make sure that all is well. The seventh phase is the patient is admitted into a hospital for pre-transplant treatment. The eighth phase is at the end of the patient’s conditioning treatment, the marrow is collected from the donor. The ninth phase is when the marrow is given to the recipient. The tenth phase is the pre- engraftment phase that follows during which time the recipient is kept in the hospital. The eleventh and final phase is the regeneration.

Given no further problems, it takes two months for the marrow and six months for the immune system to get back to normal (Baker 104-108). Leukemia affects over 28,000 people per year and 2,500 are children. Leukemia is the leading cause of death for children ages 2-15. Leukemia is the most common form of cancer among children, accounting for up to one third of childhood cancers. Not only is knowing the cause of leukemia important; the symptoms and treatments for this disease are also imperative to know as well. In the future with research and persistence, we may someday have a cure for leukemia.

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