Leukaemia is a malignant disease (cancer) of the blood and bone marrow. It is characterized by the uncontrolled accumulation of blood cells. Types of leukaemia are grouped by the type of cell affected and by the rate of cell growth. Leukaemia is either acute or chronic.
Acute leukaemia is a rapidly progressing disease that affects mostly cells that are immature or primitive (not yet fully developed or differentiated). These immature functionless cells accumulate in the marrow and result in rapid bone marrow malfunction.
Chronic leukaemia progresses slowly and permits the growth of greater number of more developed cells; these mature cells can carry out some of their normal functions, the accumulation of these cells eventually causes bone marrow failure.
Leukaemia and age. The types of leukaemia tend to link with certain age groups. Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) is most common in children and in early adulthood. Acute myeloid leukaemia occurs more often in adults. Chronic leukaemia is more common in older people and is rare in young people, however there are exceptional cases.
The causes of leukaemia are not known. It is believed by scientists that genetic, environmental, immunologic and viral factors may be involved.
The diagnosis is made based on the results of your blood, bone marrow aspiration and bone marrow biopsy. The appearance of the cells in the bone marrow will determine the type of leukaemia that is present.
This will depend on the type of leukaemia that is present; your doctor will select the treatment that is best suited for you.
The information given on this website is for educational purposes only. We do not diagnose or treat anyone. This information is intended for general reference and as such, can be taken out of context without professional medical guidance.
If you suspect that you or someone you know may have any of the conditions mentioned, always ask your doctor before acting on any information you see here.
Some of the material used was taken from various international organisations and put together for the Barbadian public.
For further information about these diseases, we link to some international cancer-related services, including; The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, The Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF) and The U.S. National Cancer Institute