What is Leukaemia?
Leukaemia is a type of blood cancer, that is both progressive and varies between patients. Leukaemia suppresses the production of normal blood cells, increasing the amount of abnormal white blood cells that the body produces. There are various types and stages of Leukaemia, with many patients experiencing a vast array of symptoms. Similarly, treatment programmes for Leukaemia differ from patient to patient. The type and stage of Leukaemia is defined by how quickly it progresses and what type of blood cells are affected.
Some patients who are diagnosed with Leukaemia may experience a few, or no, symptoms. Because the condition varies from patient to patient, symptoms are most often different too. The most commonly reported symptoms of Leukaemia, however, include:
- Persistent flu-like symptoms, including fever, chills, and a sore throat
- Constant fatigue and weakness
- Frequent infections
- Appetite and weight loss
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Bone and joint pain
- Night sweats
- Small red dots appearing under the skin
- A propensity towards bleeding or bruising easily.
While treatment programmes for Leukaemia differ from case to case, a Leukaemia diagnosis is most often picked up through the administration of a blood test. An abnormal white blood cell count is the most significant marker for Leukaemia, but that’s not where the diagnostic process ends. Instead, because Leukaemia affects your body’s blood system, it can also be picked up in the bone marrow. A full diagnosis can only be made after a bone marrow biopsy. Most commonly, bone marrow will be removed from the pelvic bone, and further analysed, to find Leukaemia cells or other changes.
In South Africa, Leukaemia support services are provided through:
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