KUTRRH continues to deepen its niche in comprehensive cancer being at the front of treatment for adults and children with leukaemia.
Leukaemia is a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues, including the bone marrow and the lymphatic system. Leukaemia usually affects the white blood cells which are potent infection fighters as they normally grow and divide in an orderly way but for people with leukaemia, the bone marrow produces an excessive amount of abnormal white blood cells, which don’t function properly.
How leukaemia forms
In general, leukaemia is thought to occur when some blood cells acquire changes (mutations) in their genetic material or DNA. A cell’s DNA contains the instructions that tell a cell what to do. Normally, the DNA tells the cell to grow at a set rate and to die at a set time. In leukaemia, the mutations tell the blood cells to continue growing and dividing. When this happens, blood cell production goes out of control. Over time, these abnormal cells can crowd out healthy blood cells in the bone marrow, leading to fewer healthy white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets, causing the signs and symptoms of leukaemia.
Types of leukaemia
The four main types of leukaemia are:
- Acute lymphocytic leukaemia (ALL). This is the most common form of childhood leukaemia. It can spread to your lymph nodes and central nervous system.
- Acute myelogenous leukaemia (AML). This is the second most common form of childhood leukaemia and one of the most common forms for adults.
- Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL). This is the other most common form of adult leukaemia. Some kinds of CLL will be stable for years and won’t need treatment. But with others, your body isn’t able to create normal blood cells, and you’ll need treatment.
- Chronic myelogenous leukaemia (CML). With this form, you might not have noticeable symptoms. You might not be diagnosed with it until you have a routine blood test. People who are 65 and older have a higher risk.
Your doctor will need to check for signs of leukaemia in your blood or bone marrow. They might do tests that include:
- Physical exam. Your doctor will look for physical signs of leukaemia, such as pale skin from anaemia, swelling of your lymph nodes, and enlargement of your liver and spleen.
- Blood tests. A complete blood count (CBC) looks at the number and maturity of different types of blood cells. A blood smear looks for unusual or immature cells.
- Bone marrow biopsy. This test involves marrow taken from your pelvic bone with a long needle. It can tell your doctor what kind of leukaemia you have and how severe it is.
- Spinal tap. This involves fluid from your spinal cord. It can tell your doctor whether the leukaemia has spread.
- Imaging tests. Things like CT, MRI, and PET scans can spot signs of leukaemia.
Treatment for your leukaemia depends on many factors. Your doctor determines your leukaemia treatment options based on your age and overall health, the type of leukaemia you have, and whether it has spread to other parts of your body, including the central nervous system. Examples of common treatments:
- Chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is the major form of treatment for leukaemia. This drug treatment uses chemicals to kill leukaemia cells
- Targeted therapy. Targeted drug treatments focus on specific abnormalities present within cancer cells. By blocking these abnormalities, targeted drug treatments can cause cancer cells to die.
- Radiation therapy. Radiation therapy uses X-rays or other high-energy beams to damage leukaemia cells and stop their growth.
- Bone marrow transplant/ stem cell transplant, helps reestablish healthy stem cells by replacing unhealthy bone marrow with leukaemia-free stem cells that will regenerate healthy bone marrow.
- Immunotherapy. Immunotherapy uses your immune system to fight cancer. Your body’s disease-fighting immune system may not attack your cancer because the cancer cells produce proteins that help them hide from the immune system cells. Immunotherapy works by interfering with that process.
- Clinical trials. Clinical trials are experiments to test new cancer treatments and new ways of using existing treatments. While clinical trials give a patient a chance to try the latest cancer treatment, treatment benefits and risks may be uncertain.
Patients with this condition have suppressed immunity. Further, in the course of treatment, their fragile immunity might be made worse by the different therapies they are undergoing. It is for this reason why Barrier Nursing is a Must for leukaemia patients. Cancer specialists discourage social visitations. Patients are nursed in isolation and prescribed PPE is donned in order to observe Infection Prevention Controls. There are wards specifically dedicated for the admission of patients with leukaemia. It is also important to note blood transfusion support is an integral part in the management of leukaemia patients. Patients friends are often required to come in for blood donation in the course of treatment. Apart from whole blood, the laboratory at KUTRRH is able to derive blood products like packed cells, pulled platelets and Fresh Frozen Plasma(FFP). These are blood components used in the treatment of leukaemia.