Leukemia and Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS)
*Types of leukemia include: AML, ALL, CML, CLL, HCL
Leukemia is a cancer of early blood-forming cells, most frequently of the white blood cells although some leukemias begin on other blood cell types. Leukemia can be described as fast-growing (acute) or slow growing (chronic). The different types of leukemia have varied outlooks and treatment options.
There are 2 main types of acute leukemia:
• Acute myeloid leukemia (AML)
• Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL)
There are 3 main types of chronic leukemia
• Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML)
• Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)
• Hairy cell leukemia (HCL)
Chronic leukemias are generally slow-developing, long-term conditions. Hairy cell leukemia is a very rare type of chronic leukemia. The most commonly diagnosed leukemia in adults is CLL and AML.
Causes, Risk Factors & Symptoms of Leukemia
Leukemia has many associated risk factors which are sometimes common to the various types, but most of the time are dependent upon the specific type of leukemia diagnosed. Many people who develop leukemia do not have any of those risk factors.
They are sometimes common to the different types but are mostly dependent on the type of leukemia involved. Many patients that develop leukemia do not present any of those risk factors.
Risk factors include:
• Being male or caucasian
• Aged over 70
• A predisposing hematological disorder such as myelodysplastic syndrome
• A family history of CLL or lymphoma or any other blood cancer
• Previous chemotherapy or radiotherapy treatment
• Exposure to chemicals such as benzene or radiation
• Smoking, especially after the age of 60
The risk factors for childhood leukemia are similar to the above, although risk factors specific to childhood leukemia include:
• Having a sibling with leukemia
• Exposure to x-rays, cigarette smoke or alcohol before birth
• A history of MDS or aplastic anemia
• Chemotherapy or other drugs/treatments that weaken the immune system
• Genetic disorders such as Down syndrome and Fanconi anemia
Leukemia symptoms vary widely, often depend on the type of leukemia involved and most leukemia symptoms are non-specific. Symptoms of leukemia include:
• Easy bruising or bleeding
• Weight loss
• Loss of appetite
• Night sweats
• Petechiae (flat, pinpoint spots under the skin caused by bleeding) (acute forms)
• Shortness of breath (lymphoblastic forms)
• Bone or stomach pain (ALL)
• Full feeling or pain below the ribs (ALL, CML)
• Non-painful lumps in the neck, under the arms, stomach, or groin (lymphoblastic forms)
• Painful, swollen lymph nodes (CLL)
Childhood leukemia symptoms include the above but can also include:
• Non-painful lumps, which may be blue-green, and are sometimes located around the eyes
• Skin rash similar to eczema
Who Gets Leukemia
According to 2010-2012 data, approximately 1.5 percent of both men and women will be diagnosed with leukemia during their lifetime.
Prognosis if You Have Leukemia
The prognosis is dependent upon many factors that vary according to the type of leukemia diagnosed.
According to data from SEER 18 2006-2012, the five-year survival rate for those diagnosed with leukemia is 59.7 percent.
How to Prevent Leukemia
There is no known way to prevent many types of leukemia. Many of the known risk factors for leukemia, such as age, ethnicity, gender and genetic predisposition, are beyond our control.
There are lifestyle decisions you can make to lower the risk of developing leukemia, including maintaining a healthy weight by being active and eating a healthy diet: vegetables; fruits; whole-grain bread, pasta, and cereals; fish; poultry; and beans.
Immune System Health
A healthy immune system remains your body's best defense. Not only is a weak immune system a major reason patients have cancer — and cancer itself can further weaken the immune system.
Beta glucans help regulate the immune system, making it more efficient. In addition, beta glucans stimulate white blood cells (lymphocytes) that bind to tumors or viruses and release chemicals to destroy it.
Beta Glucan has been approved in Japan, Australia, South Korea, and Taiwan as an immunoadjuvant therapy for cancer. In fact, helping with cancer is just the beginning with Beta Glucan. There have thousands of studies showing the product can protect against infections, lower your cholesterol, lower blood sugar, reduce stress, increase your antibody production, heal wounds, help radiation burns, overcome mercury-induced immunosuppression (like Thimerosal, used as a preservative in vaccines), help with diabetes, and even naturally prevent metastasisThe spread of cancer cells from the place where they first formed to another part of the body. In metastasis, cancer cells break away from the original (primary) tumor, travel through the blood or lymph system, and form a new tumor in other organs or tissues of the body. The new, metastatic tumor is the same type of cancer as the primary tumor. For example, if breast cancer spreads to the lung, the cancer cells in the lung are breast cancer cells, not lung cancer cells. (or the spreading of your cancer).
Harvard Medical School suggests following general good-health guidelines is the single best step you can take toward keeping your immune system strong and healthy:
• Don't smoke.
• Eat a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and low in saturated fat.
• Exercise regularly.
• Maintain a healthy weight.
• Control your blood pressure.
• If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation.
• Get adequate sleep.
• Take steps to avoid infection, such as washing your hands frequently and cooking meats thoroughly.
• Get regular medical screening tests for people in your age group and risk category.
More Information: Building the Immune System
Your diet plays a role in a healthy immune system. The top vitamins your immune system needs to perform include:
• Vitamin C — helps to repair and regenerate tissues and aids in the absorption of iron
• Vitamin E — a powerful antioxidant that helps your body fight off infection
• Vitamin B6 — supports adrenal function and is necessary for key metabolic processes
• Vitamin A — aids immune function and helps provide a barrier against infections
• Vitamin D — modulates cell growth, promotes neuromuscular and immune function, and reduces inflammation
• Folate — key in development of red blood cells (a lack of Folate can make the body susceptible to cancer)
• Iron — helps your body carry oxygen to cells
• Selenium — slows the body's overactive responses to certain aggressive forms of cancer
• Zinc — slows the immune response and control inflammation in your body