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Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia: Symptoms & Causes

  • Dec 21
  • Oncology

Overview

Leukemia is often described as cancer which affects the blood or bone marrow. That being said, out of all the several different types of leukemia, chronic lymphocytic leukemia is considered to be the most common type of chronic (slowly developing) leukemia. Another peculiar feature about this kind of leukemia is that unlike other types of leukemia which usually affect children, the incidence of chronic leukemia is said to be very rare in children. As a matter of fact, it’s a far more common occurrence in people over the age of 60 and is usually unheard of in people under the age of 40. Another peculiar bit of data pertaining to this condition is that men are two to three times more likely than women to develop chronic lymphocytic leukemia and doctors are at loggerheads trying to figure out the reason behind this.

Causes

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia is a cancer of the white blood cells, or lymphocytes, which develop from the lymphoid stem cells. White blood cells are responsible for providing immunity in the human body and are crucial for maintaining the well-being of the body. In that regard, they are known to ward off bacteria and provide protection to the body from any looming infections. Thereon, whenever there is a mutation or damage caused to these white blood cells, they tend to grow and multiply abnormally until there are too many thus resulting in the spread of cancer.

Despite the advancements in medical science, the causative factors behind the occurrence of chronic lymphocytic leukemia are unknown even today. However, this condition is more commonly found in Caucasians – mainly individuals of Russian and European descent – as compared to people from Asian countries such as China, Japan or having southeast Asian ancestry. It has also been found to be widely prevalent in people of African descent, Hispanics, and in people belonging to first nation countries. Furthermore, there is convincing evidence that a family history of chronic lymphocytic leukemia or even a family history of cancer in bone marrow and blood drastically increases an individual’s risk for acquiring this form of cancer.

Although, there appears to be no concrete link stating that an individual is at a higher risk of acquiring chronic lymphocytic leukemia due to radiation – it’s been reported that exposure to carcinogenic chemicals (such as benzene & other petrochemicals), certain types of viruses, chemicals such as insecticides and herbicides, agent Orange (a chemical used in Vietnam War) has played a part in increasing the risk of developing leukemia. It has been suggested that individuals afflicted with down syndrome appear are also at a higher risk – most probably as a result of certain chromosomal changes.

Symptoms

Most people afflicted with this condition usually don’t exhibit any symptoms at all. As a matter of fact, it’s being reported that in nearly 50 out of every 100 cases, chronic lymphocytic leukemia has been diagnosed at the time of a routine blood test. Owing to the nature of this condition, it often remains undiagnosed until routine blood tests display an abnormally high level of lymphocytes or white blood cells.

Many of the below-mentioned symptoms might sound vague & are more likely to be caused by other illnesses. Here are some of the common signs and symptoms of chronic lymphocytic leukemia:

  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • The development of painless swellings around the neck, armpits, and/or groin areas
  • Constant fatigue – primarily owing to Anaemia
  • Weight loss
  • Unusual Bleeding or bruising
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Bone pain
  • Malaise
  • Having fevers or chills
  • Frequent & incessant infections
  • Sudden loss of appetite
  • Night sweats/ palpitations
  • Bleeding gums
  • Enlargement of the spleen
  • Unusually high heavy menstrual flow in women
  • Frequent or severe nosebleeds
  • Nausea accompanied with vomiting
  • Vision issues
  • Leukemia cutis
  • Sweet’s syndrome
  • Chloroma

Once a diagnosis has been made, a doctor usually suggests a series of blood tests in order to determine the presence of any associated genetic abnormalities in the leukemic cells, which may assist in the accurate prognosis and deciding further course of treatment. Upon conclusion of these tests, the doctor will be in a better position to analyze the progression of the condition and verify how far it has developed – a process called as staging.

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With 28 hospitals across the nation and over 4000+ beds, Fortis Healthcare Limited is a leading integrated healthcare delivery service provider in India. For over 26 years, Fortis Hospitals have been committed to the cause of getting people back to their lives faster and stronger.

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