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What is Leukemia Cancer?

Leukemia is cancer of the blood cells. It starts in the bone marrow, the soft tissue inside most bones. Bone marrow is where blood cells are made.

  • White blood cells help your body fight infection.
  • Red blood cells carry oxygen to all parts of your body.
  • Platelets help your blood clot.

When you have leukemia, the bone marrow starts to make a lot of abnormal white blood cells, called leukemia cells. They don′t do the work of normal white blood cells. They grow faster than normal cells, and they don′t stop growing when they should.

Over time, leukemia cells can crowd out the normal blood cells. This can lead to serious problems such as anemia, bleeding, and infections. Leukemia cells can also spread to the lymph nodes or other organs and cause swelling or pain.

There are several different types of leukemia. In general, leukemia is grouped by how fast it gets worse and what kind of white blood cell it affects.

The first type of classification is by how fast the leukemia progresses:

  • Acute leukemia. In acute leukemia, the abnormal blood cells are immature blood cells (blasts). They can′t carry out their normal work, and they multiply rapidly, so the disease worsens quickly. Acute leukemia requires aggressive, timely treatment.
  • Chronic leukemia. This type of leukemia involves more mature blood cells. These blood cells replicate or accumulate more slowly and can function normally for a period of time. Some forms of chronic leukemia initially produce no early symptoms and can go unnoticed or undiagnosed for years.

The second type of classification is by type of white blood cell affected:

  • Lymphocytic leukemia. This type of leukemia affects the lymphoid cells (lymphocytes), which form lymphoid or lymphatic tissue. Lymphatic tissue makes up your immune system.
  • Myelogenous leukemia. This type of leukemia affects the myeloid cells. Myeloid cells give rise to red blood cells, white blood cells and platelet-producing cells.

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