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ALL- Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia

Overview of ALL- Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia

Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL), is a type of blood cancer that affects white blood cells in the bone marrow. Cancer begins in the bone marrow which is the spongy part of the bone where blood cells are being made. 

This is also known as acute lymphocytic leukemia. This type of cancer usually affects lymphocytes (a type of immune system cells). Under normal circumstances, lymphocytes are released in the blood after maturation and are capable of performing their normal function. 

In the case of ALL, immature lymphocytes are released in the bloodstream in larger numbers. These cells continue to multiply in the bloodstream reducing the number of healthy red blood cells and platelets. Further, these immature cells are not capable of performing their function properly so you end up with a compromised defense system.

The term“acute” says that this type of cancer spreads aggressively. The effects of ALL aren’t only limited to white blood cells but affect all types of blood cells. The condition affects both adults and children. Though the condition is rare, it is the most common type of cancer among children in the USA.

Signs and Symptoms of ALL- Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia affects all types of healthy blood cells in the body. Some of the common symptoms of acute lymphoblastic leukemia include:

  • Pale coloration
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Increased heart rate
  • Frequent infections
  • Sweating
  • Increased body temperature
  • Uncontrolled bleeding 
  • Easy bruising
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Purpura (purple skin rash)
  • Unwanted weight loss

Cancer i.e., ALL begins in the bloodstream but over time can progress to other body areas. The spread of cancer to your nervous system can exhibit the following symptoms. 

Types of ALL- Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia

 

 

Causes of ALL- Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia

There is no clear cause of ALL.

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Risk Factors of ALL- Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia

We don’t know about the exact cause of ALL, however, many things are known to increase your risk of suffering from ALL. Some of these risk factors include:

  • Medical Treatment: Going through treatments like chemotherapy and radiation therapy can significantly increase your risk of suffering from ALL. 
  • Gender: Males are more likely to suffer from ALL. 
  • Origin: White people have an increased chance of suffering from ALL.
  • Toxin Exposure: People who get exposed to certain chemicals present in cleaning agents, paints, oil refineries, etc are more likely to suffer from the problem. 
  • Medical Conditions: Suffering from medical conditions especially the ones that lie in your genes such as Down’s syndrome acts as a risk factor for ALL. Other than genetic conditions, viral infections i.e., EBV (Epstein-Barr virus) and HLTV (Human T-cell lymphoma/leukemia virus-1) also increase your chances of suffering from ALL. 

 

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Prevention

 

 

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Diagnosis

For the diagnosis of ALL following diagnostic tests are performed:

Physical Exam: If you exhibit certain signs and symptoms of acute lymphoblastic leukemia, then your physician will go for a physical examination. A physical examination will involve questions regarding your medical history etc. Your physician will try to focus on any swollen lymph nodes in your body area, changes in skin coloration, and any infections.

Blood Tests: This physical examination is usually followed by blood testing. Different types of blood tests can help with the diagnosis of ALL. CBC (complete blood count) test is the measure of the total number of different types of blood cells in your body. This test can help your physician to have a correct picture of changes in blood cells number in your body. Other than this, smear testing can help with the microscopic visualization of blood cells to figure out the changes in blood cell morphology. 

Bone Marrow Test: This test helps with the conformation of cancer at the bone marrow stage. For this, a little bone marrow sample is taken and subjected to testing in order to confirm ALL.

Treatment of ALL- Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia | When to Consult a Doctor

ALL treatments can be of various types and you need to have more than one such treatment at once. Here are some of the popular treatment options for ALL:

Chemotherapy

This therapy is used to kill cancerous cells in your bone marrow using a combination of certain drugs. These medications can be either injected or can be consumed as tablets. 

Radiation therapy

This cancer treatment uses radiators from different sources to kill cancerous cells. This therapy is effective when cancer is about to spread to other parts of your body.

Targeted Therapy

Targeted therapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses specially designed-drugs to target cancer cells. This therapy is beneficial because it can help with the destruction of cancerous cells only.

Stem Cell Transplant

This alternative treatment is used when the body has problems responding to chemotherapy. This transformation will gradually replace your bone marrow while killing bone cells over time. 

If you experience any signs and symptoms of leukemia, then consult a medical professional as soon as possible.