Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia: Help, Support and Overcome
Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia Overview
Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is a malignant disease of the bone marrow, where the early lymphoid precursors rapidly proliferate and thus replace the hematopoietic cells of the bone marrow. This disease can be distinguished from other cell types by immunophenotyping, a method that is used to identify the normal T and B cells of the human body. ALL tends to be more common in males than females and within ethnicities, Caucasians tend to develop the disease more rapidly when compared to other ethnic groups. Children between the age group of 1 to 10 years are mostly affected by this disease and might get cured spontaneously. However, with older patients, acute lymphoblastic leukemia develops mostly due to chromosomal aberrations, thus making treatment and prognoses difficult.
ALL mostly develops due to exposure to radiation and harmful chemicals in both humans and animals. Studies evince that ALL develops as a result of exposure to chemicals at workplace. However, many results are not conclusive. ALL is also presumed to be a secondary outcome in individuals who are treated for other types of cancer. Nevertheless, with the advent of new technologies and novel chemotherapeutics in the market, there has been a survival rate of about 20%-75% all over the world.
Help and Support for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia
The symptoms of ALL are not specific to the disease, but can relatively worsen to the extent of seeking medical help. All this is attributed to the fact normal and healthy cells are replaced by malignant tumorous cells. Hence malfunctioning of the erythrocytes, leukocytes, and platelets is commonly observed in this disease. Some of the common signs and symptoms include: generalized weakness, unexplained fever and infection in the body, frequent loss of weight, unexplained causes of bruising, bone and joint pain, which is caused by the spread of the blast cells from the bone into the marrow, enlargement of glands, swelling in the lower areas such as limbs and abdomen, presence of tiny red spots or lines on the skin which is characteristic of low platelet levels.
Patient education so far seems to be the best preventive measure for ALL. Individuals inflicted with the disease should seek immediate medical attention when they experience febrile signs or bleeding. Also, when receiving chemotherapy, patients should avoid walking with the crowd and also quarantine themselves from those individuals with other modes of infection. Despite the above preventive measures, patients should ensure that no raw fruits or vegetables are consumed, and that food is cooked well before eating.
Overcome Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia
Its diagnosis includes a complete physical examination, and performing a total blood count and blood smears to analyze the presence of infection. In specific, the higher the count of the white blood cells, the worse is the disease. Blast cells are also seen on a blood smear. However, a biopsy is a conclusive proof of evidence. In a few patients with severe disease, lumbar puncture may also be performed to conclude the involvement of the brain. Recent advances in the diagnosis include the immunohistochemical methods and medical imaging by the means of MRI or CT.
The treatment includes chemotherapy, radiation therapy, steroids, and a combination of treatments such as bone marrow or stem cell implants along with other growth factors. Chemotherapy and radiation can be intensive depending on the severity of the disease. However, they last for about three years and many patients have an intravenous catheter inserted into the hickman line underneath the surface of the skin. Extensive chemotherapy may lead to a few side effects, such as loss of hair, pregnancy and birth defects, especially when given during the first trimester. Such side effects are deemed to impact the patient both physically and mentally, although the side effects are temporary in a few instances. Patient education is an important factor when it comes to dealing with the disease and the side effects caused due to treatment. Nevertheless, there are many self help groups that help patients develop a strong psychological stamina and thus fight the disease.