• Tuesday, March 05, 2024
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What to know about Leukaemia


Leukaemia is a blood and bone marrow cancer characterised by the rapid growth of abnormal blood cells.

These abnormal cells crowd out healthy blood cells, making it difficult for your body to function correctly, according to scientific studies.

The bone marrow is the spongy tissue inside the bones where blood cells are made. With leukaemia, the bone marrow produces too many immature or abnormal white blood cells that cannot fight infection and healthy white blood cells.

As a result, they can also interfere with the production of other blood cells, such as red blood cells and platelets.

According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, an arm of the World Health Organisation, it accounted for 5.9 per cent of all cancer cases in Nigeria in 2020.

Out of about 124,815 new cancer cases within the period, leukaemia was the least compare compared to breast cancer (22.7 percent), prostrate (12.3 percent), cervical (9.7 percent), colorectum (6 percent), and other cancers (43.5 percent).

There are many different types classified by the category of white blood cells affected and how quickly the disease progresses.

The four main types of leukaemia are acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) – the most common type of leukaemia in children; chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) -the most common type in adults; acute myeloid leukaemia (AML); and chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML).

According to a study by The Lancet, if leukaemias were considered as a single group, given that haematologist-oncologists treat them and have a similar diagnostic approach, rather than as individual leukaemia subtypes, leukaemias would be the largest categorised cancer group contributing to the global cancer burden, greater than that of breast cancer.

Children face the highest risk of sudden blood cancer called acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL), though anyone can get it.

The cause is usually a mystery, but researchers have linked some genetic markers and external factors.

Doctors have made huge strides in treatment, especially for children, with powerful drugs helping many beat the disease.

However, older adults and those with relapsed cases still face tougher odds. Exciting new therapies using the body’s immune system, like CAR T-cells, hold promise for the future.