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Leukemia is a term for cancers of the blood cells, including bone marrow. It can hurt how the body naturally fights infection. The type of leukemia is based on the type of blood cell that becomes cancerous and whether it grows quickly or slowly. 




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  • Leukemia symptoms vary, depending on the type. Common signs and symptoms include:

    • Fever or chills
    • Ongoing tiredness, weakness
    • Repeated or serious infections
    • Losing weight without trying
    • Swollen lymph nodes, located in your neck, enlarged liver or spleen 
    • Small injuries causing you to bleed or bruise
    • Repeated nosebleeds
    • Tiny red spots on your skin  
    • A lot of sweating, especially at night
    • Bone pain or tenderness

    These symptoms can happen for other reasons besides cancer. If you have symptoms like those listed above, you should talk to your provider to find out the reason. 

  • There are many ways your doctor may find leukemia. Your doctor might do one or more of the following:

    • A physical exam
    • Ask about your family medical history as well as yours
    • A biopsy (taking a sample of tissue from your body and testing it)
    • Lab tests and other screening tests, such as a blood or bone marrow test
  • Leukemia is not common. In 2020, leukemia made up only 3.4% of all new cancer cases. About 1.5% of men and women will have leukemia at some point in their lives. 

  • Things that may raise your chances of getting leukemia include:

    • Previous chemotherapy and radiation therapy for other cancers
    • Certain genetic issues, such as Down syndrome
    • Smoking cigarettes
    • Having family members who have had leukemia

    Most people with the above factors don't get leukemia. Many people with leukemia don't have any factors that may have caused it. 

  • There is no sure way to stop someone from getting leukemia. There are some things you can do to help lower your chances for getting it, such as:

    • Have a low-fat diet (eating plan)
    • Don't smoke
    • Don't drink alcohol
    • Watch your body weight and get exercise
  • How we care for leukemia depends on many factors: 

    • Type of leukemia
    • Where the cancer is located in the body 
    • Stage of leukemia
    • Your age and overall health 

    Your doctor will work with you to find the right care plan for you. Some examples of treatment include:

    • Chemotherapy (using medication to make the cancer smaller or to kill cancer cells)
    • Radiation (using X-rays to kill cancer cells)
    • Targeted therapy (using drugs to stop cancer cells from growing and spreading)
    • Stem cell transplant (a surgery to replace diseased bone marrow with healthy bone marrow)