Leukaemia is a definition of any disease of the blood or bone marrow that is characterized by an uncontrolled multiplication of white blood cells. The term ‘uncontrolled proliferation’ is the same as cancer. Leukaemia is classified on the basis of the speed with which the white cells will multiply, specifically being known as acute, subacute or chronic. Further differentiation is made by naming the type of white blood cell that is out of control and lastly by the difference in the cells themselves. The more varied the white blood cells, the more dangerous the cancer.
White blood cells are initially made in the bone marrow with further production and modification in the lymphatic system. White blood cell proliferation in the lymphatic system is known as lymphatic leukaemia, whereas that in the bone marrow is known as myeloid leukaemia. The latter condition can overwhelm the bone marrow and the production of normal cells becomes diminished, leading to symptoms of anaemia. An acute situation can come on within a matter of weeks and be triggered by viruses, radiation and, possibly, agrochemicals/pesticides. The chronic forms may not be noticed for months, if not years, but if left untreated the outcome will be the same.
Symptoms depend on the type of leukaemia. Those affecting the bone marrow will lead to lethargy, paleness, lack of appetite, shortness of breath and a rapid heartbeat, whereas the lymphatic leukaemia will lead to enlarged lymph glands, liver and spleen; in both acute and chronic leukaemia eventually there is a marked decrease in immune function. Leukaemia can strike at any age, the acute lymphatic leukaemia most commonly affecting children.
See Cancer and Anaemia.
Chronic more so than acute, and lymphatic more so than myeloid, appear to be susceptible to chemotherapy, radiotherapy, blood and bone marrow transfusions. Do not necessarily refuse these but use complementary medicine alongside.