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The cancer, acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), can be broken down for better understanding as a rapidly spreading cancer of the lymphocytes in blood and bone marrow. While usually appearing in young children, it can sometimes also be found in adults.
Unlike many other cancers, such as melanoma and lung cancer, acute lymphocytic leukemia has no definite cause. However, certain circumstances may increase the likelihood of development. Some of these circumstances include past bone marrow transplants, past chemotherapy, prenatal exposure to radiation, having a genetic disorder, mutations in DNA, and having blood related sibling with leukemia. One of the mutations in DNA is an occurrence where 2 parts of the DNA, specifically the 9 and 12 areas, have been reversed in order. This is called the Philadelphia chromosome. It was originally only linked with the disease acute myeloid leukemia, but it is now starting to be seen in about twenty-five percent of acute lymphocytic leukemia cases. Mutations in the DNA make acute lymphocytic leukemia a life threatening disease when left untreated because the mutated DNA is allowing the abnormal cells to live and thrive, rather than destroying harmful cells and replenishing with fully operational ones.
The way that acute lymphocytic leukemia works is that the body begins to produce a great deal of undeveloped lymphocytes and instead of maturing to fight off infections and keep us healthy, they crowd out our red blood cells, platelets, and white blood cells causing leukemia. After leukemia is formed it can then move quickly on to other organs such as the brain, spinal cord, liver, lymph nodes, and spleen.
Given that leukemia prevents the body from fighting off infections, some symptoms that are likely to occur are fatigue, shortness of breath, a pain or soreness below ribs, fever, swollen glands, night sweats, frequent nosebleeds, bleeding from gums, pain involving bones and joints, weight loss, loss of appetite, frequent infections, pale skin, red spots on skin, and lumps caused by swollen lymph nodes.
There are a couple ways to examine the body for acute lymphocytic leukemia. One of these ways is to have a complete blood count done, which will tell doctors how many white blood cells are present. A few other tests include: platelet counts, spinal taps, and a bone marrow biopsy.
Should a doctor find acute lymphocytic leukemia in the body he may suggest that that the patient undergoes chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. In more severe circumstances or in the case of an exact blood match sibling, a corresponding blood transfusion would be better suitable.
The survival rate for people diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia is high and rising as technology progresses. The most current research associated with this disease and survival rates suggest that eighty percent of children will live to see their five year mark without leukemia. As with most cancers, after a patient’s blood work comes up normal for five years they are considered cured. In adults, the five year survival rate is about forty percent. Although, not as high success rates as children, it is best to keep in mind that nearly sixty percent of reported cases were in people under the age of twenty.