Leukemia - Malpractice Lawyers Compensation Claims

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Leukemia - Medical Malpractice

Leukemia is cancers of blood cells that affect the entire body, including the bone marry, bloodstream and tissues of the body. Leukemia originates in the bone marrow of the body, which is the soft tissue within bones. White blood cells are made in the bone marrow, and aberrations of the DNA of white blood cells are what causes leukemia. The bone marrow also makes red blood cells and platelets, which tend not to be involved in leukemia with the exception of the fact that leukemia cells take over the bone marrow, resulting in a decrease in red blood cell and platelet function.

Many abnormal white blood cells are made when leukemia develops. These are called leukemia cells. They grow faster than normal white blood cells but do not work the way white blood cells are supposed to. The immune system is diminished rather than increased with more white blood cells around.

Typical symptoms are anaemia, from crowding out of red blood cells in the bone marrow, bleeding problems and frequent infections, from poorly functioning white blood cells. Leukemia cells often travel to lymph nodes causing lymph node swelling and pain in the areas of lymph nodes.

There are several types of leukemia, depending on which cells are involved and how fast they grow. There is acute myelogenous or chronic myelogenous leukemia, which affect the cells known as myelocytes in the blood stream. There is acute and chronic lymphocytic leukemia, which involves lymphoblastic or lymphocytic cells of the blood stream. These are called AML, CML, ALL or CML, respectively. ALL is the most common type of leukemia in children although adults can get it, too. Both adults and children can get AML. These are more serious diseases than the chronic forms of leukemia. CLL is the most common type of leukemia in adults over the age of 55. It is rare in children. CML is usually a disease of adulthood.

The cause of leukemia is unknown but there are some risk factors that seem to predispose a person to getting the disease. These can include being exposed to radiation, being exposed to workplace chemicals, such as benzene, having previous chemotherapy for another cancer, having Down syndrome or having other genetic conditions. Being a smoker predisposes you to getting cancer of the blood. Most people, however, have none of these risk factors and still get leukemia anyway.

The major symptoms of leukemia depend on what type of leukemia you have. Common symptoms, however, are headaches, fever, night sweats, bone or joint pain, having an enlarged spleen, having swollen lymph nodes in the armpit, groin or neck, getting frequent infections, weakness or fatigue and losing weight due to a lack of hunger.

Doctors will do a complete history and physical examination in order to diagnose leukemia. The doctor will look for a swollen spleen or swollen glands and will ask about your health or symptoms. The liver can also be enlarged, which can be found by the doctor. A blood test can show elevated white blood cell counts. If this is not found, a bone marrow biopsy can be done to show what types of cells are behaving in an abnormal manner.

The treatment of leukemia depends on what type of leukemia is present. There are various chemotherapeutic regimens for different types of leukemia. Acute leukemia needs rapid treatment to stop cancer cell growth. The idea is to get the person into remission so as many cancer cells are killed as possible. Some types of acute leukemias can't be cured but can only be staved off for months or years before it naturally recurs.

Chronic leukemias may not need immediate treatment unless there are significant symptoms to be treated. The doctors simply watch the white blood cell count and dose the patient with chemotherapy or other treatments until the count returns to as normal as possible. Few cases of chronic leukemia can actually be cured but it can otherwise be easily managed.

Treatments for leukemia include giving chemotherapy to kill cancer cells. Radiation therapy can be used in some situations, especially before a stem cell transplant. Stem cell transplantation uses donated stem cells to rebuild the bone marrow after the cancer is killed off via chemotherapy or radiation. Biological therapy uses medications that build up the body's natural defence against the cancer cells.

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The author of the substantive medical writing on this website is Dr. Christine Traxler MD whose biography can be read here