September is Leukemia Awareness Month and in a larger sense an opportunity to spotlight all blood-related cancers. You have probably heard the news that during the current COVID health crisis, blood donations are happening at below-average rates.
Many leukemia patients require blood transfusions during their care according to their care. These transfusions from healthy donors help replace red cells, platelets, and other blood components in leukemia patients.
What is Leukemia?
As you likely already are aware, leukemia is a form of cancer, specifically one that affects blood and the body’s blood-forming tissues.
Leukemia occurs when “blood cells acquire DNA mutations that cause the number of the body’s white blood cells to radically increase, crowding out the red blood cells and platelets the body needs to remain healthy” as described by the National Cancer Center.
There are many types of leukemia, but three, in particular, are the most common:
- Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) – most common in adults
- Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) – most common in children
- Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) – most common chronic leukemia
The difference between “chronic” and “acute” lies in how aggressive the cancer is. Most people can live for years with chronic leukemia as it is less aggressive, but it generally harder to put into remission.
Who’s is at risk?
Leukemia is often thought of as a childhood cancer. While leukemia is the most prevalent form of cancer in children, it actually occurs more frequently in adults.
What can you do?
There is not anything you can do to prevent leukemia. Research is on-going to discover improved treatment methods.
Like with most diseases, however, the earlier you are diagnosed, the better your odds of a fast recovery.