Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia is disease that affects white blood cells called lymphocytes. There are 2 main types of Lymphocytes in our bodies which are B lymphocytes and T Lymphocytes. The B lymphocyte makes a special protein marker, which they put on bacteria, called antibodies, that flags other white blood cells to come destroy them. The T Lymphocytes are capable of targeting and killing viruses/bacteria on their own. Most lymphocytes are made in the bone marrow; this is where Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia can be formed as well.
The Leukemia cells build up and soon replace all the normal lymphocytes. As soon as the Leukemia cells get into the bloodstream they can travel throughout your organs, multiplying and infecting everything they come in contact with. As you can tell, this would happen at a very fast rate and if unnoticed, it would kill you in a matter of months. With most cancers, the earlier you detect it and start treatment the better the chances of survival are. Always be aware of changes in your body. There are many symptoms that could save your life if you’re aware.
A high fever and excessive sweating can result from your body detecting an infection. Always being weak and tired, which could be caused by a lack of red blood cells causing anemia. Frequent nosebleeds and bruising is prominent when there is destruction of platelets. Bone and joint pain and weakness is a result of Leukemia cells in the bone marrow. Enlarged lymph nodes, spleen, or liver is a sure sign there’s an infection of some kind. Everyone of these symptoms is the result of Leukemia cells overcrowding your good cells and taking over.
If any symptoms arise, getting a complete blood count can determine if there is a problem. The total number of white blood cells may be decreased, normal, or increased, but the number of red blood cells and platelets is almost always decreased. (Emil J. Freireich, 2008) Obtaining a bone marrow sample will indicate if you have leukemia or any other bone marrow problem as well. If diagnosed with ALL, chemotherapy begins immediately. Chemotherapy helps to destroy the Leukemia cells, making room for your normal cells. With this Chemotherapy, patients usually stay in the hospital for days or even weeks.
Transfusions are usually necessary for those that acquire anemia. Intravenous fluids and therapy with a drug called Allopurinol may also be used to help rid the body of harmful substances, such as uric acid, that are released when leukemia cells are destroyed. (Emil J. Freireich, 2008) New drugs that are in pill forms that target specific parts of cancer cells are used nowadays. These new drugs have a lot less side effects and are usually less severe than your regular chemo. Recent studies have suggested that this new target drug combined with chemo has helped ALL from returning. American Cancer Society, Inc. , 2009) A stem cell transplant is sometimes used after high doses of chemo is administered to help restore the bodies ability to make blood and make up for all the good tissue and cells chemotherapy has killed. Before treatment was available, most people who had ALL died within 4 months of the diagnosis. Now, nearly 80% of children and 30 to 40% of adults with ALL are cured. (Emil J. Freireich, 2008) That is a pretty high number. Early detection is definitely the key, just like it is for any other diseases.