Etymologically, leukos refers to white and aima refers to blood in Greek from where Leukaemia draws its origin. On a deeper note during leukaemia the DNA of immature or young blood cells suffer damage; the exact reason being still unidentified. This particular anomaly triggers a chaotic growth and division among the blood cells. This is a clear digression from the normal death of blood cells followed by the replacement of the same with new ones. This is simply a crowding out effect which these abnormal cells have over the normal blood cells; these abnormal cells simply refuse to die; they persist and accumulate and eat up more space leaving little or almost no room for the normal blood cells thus causing the afflicted to fall ill.
What gets disrupted?
Well the answer is the way the bone marrow functions. The bone marrow is of two types namely red marrow which comprises myeloid tissue and yellow marrow which comprises fat cells. Red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets are produced in the red marrow; the white ones being responsible for combating diseases and red ones for carrying oxygen. As mentioned earlier, leukaemia affects the production of white blood cells wherein they grow abnormally in numbers thus stunting the growth of normal white blood cells. This has a relaying effect on the capacity of the cells to fight off diseases and infections and the person falls ill subsequently.
Broadly leukaemia can be divided into four types all of which can be either chronic or acute. A chronic leukaemia advances slowly and paves the way for more useful cells to be manufactured. On the other hand, a leukaemia is considered to be acute when the abnormal growth and accumulation of useless white blood cells in the marrow and blood become progressive. Put simply, acute leukaemia crowds out the useful cells more rapidly than the chronic variant.
Leukaemia can be Lymphocytic and Myelogenous on the basis of the type of the affected blood cell. In case the cancerous accumulation occurs in the marrow that produces lymphocytes (a white blood cell type located inside the vertebrae immunity system), the disease is termed as lymphocytic leukaemia. And if the cancerous cell build up occurs in the marrow producing some other types of white blood cells, red blood cells or platelets, the disease is termed as myelogenous leukaemia.
So, as per the math, there can be an acute lymphocytic leukaemia (ALL) and a chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) and the same goes for myelogenous leukaemia; AML and CML. Those affected with ALL are commonly young children and adults above 65 and the survival rate of the same ranges from 85% among kids to 50% among adults. ALL can be of the following types namely precursor T acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, precursor B acute lymphoblastic leukaemia and so on. CLL is relatively more prevalent among adults aged more than 55 than younger adults. This barely affects children and 75% of those who receive treatment survive the blight for over five years.
AML is more common among adults than children and among males rather than females. Speaking of types, these can be promyelocytic, myeloblastic and megakaryoblastic. This has a lower survival rate as compared to the above two; 40% of those who receive chemotherapy survive for more than 5 years. CML affects the adults majorly. With a high survival rate 90% of patients survive this disease for over 5 years.
Given the respective survival rates of the above mentioned diseases, it is evident that sooner the symptoms are identified and the precise treatment is given to the patient we can actually add a considerable number of years to his/her life.