About Leukemia

Leukemia occurs when blood cells acquire mutations to their DNA. Certain abnormalities cause the blood cells to grow and divide more rapidly and to continue living when normal cells would die. Over time, the abnormal blood cells crowd out the heathy blood cells in the bone marrow, leading to fewer healthy white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. Over 60,500 patients per year are diagnosed with leukemia in the United States.

Types of Leukemia

Leukemia is classified by how fast the leukemia progresses and the type of white blood cell affected.

Classification of leukemia:

  • Acute leukemia indicates that the disease progresses rapidly and creates immature blood cells that do not function normally.
  • Chronic leukemia indicates the disease progresses slowly and created more mature blood cells that can function normally for a period of time.
  • Lymphocytic leukemia affects the lymphoid cells (lymphocytes), which form lymphoid tissue.
  • Myelogenous leukemia affects the myeloid cells, which give rise to red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelet-producing cells.

Types of leukemia include:

  • Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL)
  • Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML)
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)
  • Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML)

Symptoms of Leukemia

Symptoms of leukemia may include:

  • Bone pain or tenderness
  • Easy bruising or bleeding
  • Enlarged liver or spleen
  • Night sweats
  • Persistent fatigue
  • Severe or frequent infections
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Tiny red spots in skin (petechiae)
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Weakness

Risk Factors for Leukemia

The exact cause of leukemia is unknown.

Risk factors for leukemia may include:

  • Comorbid conditions: Certain genetic disorders are linked to leukemia
  • Family history
  • Personal history: Exposure to chemicals such as benzene, radiation exposure, and smoking are associated with leukemia risk

Treating Leukemia at UT Health Austin

Treatment will require an accurate diagnosis and depend on specific type of leukemia. An individual care plan will be developed and tailored to manage symptoms to meet the needs of the individual patient. Decisions about treatment may include combinations of radiation therapy, immunotherapy, chemotherapy, and consideration of stem cell transplant.

Care Team Approach

At UT Health Austin, we take a multidisciplinary approach to your care. This means you will benefit from the expertise of multiple specialists across a variety of disciplines. Your care team will include medical oncologists, surgical oncologists, radiation oncologists, pathologists, radiologists, oncofertility specialists, onco-psychiatrists, genetic counselors, physical therapists, dietitians, social workers, and more as well as other members of the CaLM Care Team who work together to help you get back to the things in your life that matter most to you. We also collaborate with our colleagues at the Dell Medical School and The University of Texas at Austin to utilize the latest research, diagnostic, and treatment techniques, allowing us to identify and utilize new therapies to improve cancer treatment outcomes. We are committed to communicating and coordinating your care with your other healthcare providers to ensure that we are providing you with comprehensive, whole-person care.

Learn More About Your Care Team

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Hematologic Malignancies

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