Leukemia is a term for a type of cancer that causes an abnormality of blood cells. Blood cells that are healthy and normal are made up of the fluid called plasma, and these blood cells are known as red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Red blood cells are responsible for carrying oxygen and carbon dioxide to and from the body’s cells. White blood cells are known to fight infection contracted by the body. Platelets are responsible for the formation of blood clots to curb excess bleeding. Blood cells are produced in the bone marrow. The bone marrow is a soft and spongy tissue located in the center of the bones. In the case of adults, the bone marrow is found in the hips, ribs, spine and skull. The onset of leukemia is characterized by the formation of abnormal blood cells. The cells in leukemia are immature cells that look very different from normal and healthy cells.
Types of leukemia
There are two types of abnormal white blood cells that cause leukemia. If the cancer cells are lymphoid, the disease is called lymphocytic leukemia. If, on the other hand, cancer cells are myeloid cells, the disease is myelogenous leukemia. Leukemia can also be classified as acute or chronic. Cancer cells in acute leukemia are immature blasts and grow rapidly. Cells in chronic leukemia are a combination of immature and mature cells, and their growth is considerably slower. There are essentially six types of leukemia. The classification is based on the type of cell cancer and the growth rate of cells. The six different types are:
- Acute lymphocytic leukemia or ALL – This type of leukemia is more common in children. However, in some cases, adults over 65 may also be victims.
- Acute myelogenous leukemia or AML – This type of leukemia, in most cases, affects adults, and is extremely rare in children. Also called non-lymphocytic and abbreviated leukemia as LANL.
- Chronic lymphocytic leukemia or CLL – This type of leukemia usually affects adults who are above 55 years of age. It is rarely found in younger adults.
- Chronic myeloid leukemia or CML – This type of leukemia affects adults and is extremely rare in children.
- Hair cells – A form of leukemia that is very rare in children and adults.
- Acute promyelocytic leukemia – Another form of leukemia that affects children and adults in extreme rarity.
Definition of leukemia survival rate
The survival rate of leukemia is usually expressed by the percentage of survivors, exactly five years after diagnosis. The five-year survival rate specifies whether patients have few or many signs of cancer, heal completely or partially, and are out of the disease or are still in need of treatment. Medical advances and modern technology have increased the survival rate of AML found in most adult cases. The survival rate of leukemia has been approximately 25% of adults. However, there has been a considerable increase in the survival rate in patients with leukemia, where this figure has risen to 35%, and for patients affected by AML, the survival rate is reaching 40%,
Factors affecting the survival rate of leukemia
Age – This factor has a negative effect on the 5-year survival rate, because older patients are at a risk of not surviving AML or LLA. It is estimated that 20% of patients who die due to AML are under 55 years of age. On the other hand, the rate rises to 80% for patients who are affected by ALL or AML when they are older than 55 years. Therefore, the conclusion remains that young patients have better chances of survival. This could also be attributed to the fact that younger individuals can cope better when they are given strong chemotherapy drugs.
Cytogenetics – The chromosomal structure of leukemic cells could also affect the survival rate. Three categories of risk can be highlighted, which are – good, intermediate and poor. About half of the patients with AML fall into the intermediate category. The five-year survival rate is 70%, 48% and 15% respectively, for each category.
White blood cell count and general physical condition – These are also the two essential factors that affect the survival rate of AML. A good immune system, physical strength and white blood cell count before cancer are factors that determine the real chances of survival.
As mentioned in the article, advances in medical science are useful in increasing the survival rate of leukemia patients. In fact, it is a great hope.