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Types Of Leukemia

Updated on October 22, 2011

In normal conditions all the cells in our body (except for the brain cells) have a specific lifetime. They live for a short time, divide through mitosis and then die out. The new formed cells follow the same pattern and the process goes on till the death of the individual occurs.

But sometimes due to mutation or certain internal or external factors the cells break the pattern and start growing abnormally through amitosis and start to accumulate in the form of layers, forming a callus or a tumor. This condition is known as the cancer, which is simply defined as the abnormal growth of cells.

Cancer is of different type depending on the type of cells that undergo abnormal growth. One such type is the cancer of blood cells known as the Leukemia. Leukemia occurs in the stem cells of bone marrow which are responsible for the making of the blood cells namely: the white blood cells (leukocytes), the red blood cells (erythrocytes) and the platelets.

The stem cells are of two types the myeloid stem cells and the lymphoid stems. The myeloid stem cells develop into red blood cells, platelets and some types of white blood cells, granulocytes or monocytes. The lymphoid stem cells develop into the most important type of white blood cells the lymphocytes.

Cancer can occur in either of the two types of stem cells in the bone marrow. These cells then mature to form blood cells that cannot perform their functions properly and this leads to a rapid decrease in immunity and anemia. In many organs clotting may occur.

The cancer of the myeloid cells is called myelocytic cancer and the cancer of the lymphoid cells is called the lymphocytic cancer.

A cancer can be either acute or chronic. On the basis of that there are four types of leukemia, which are given below:

Acute Myelocytic Leukemia

Acute myelocytic cancer is a common acute leukemia is very common in adults but not very common in children.

In this type of leukemia the myelocytic stem cells grow rapidly and do not mature. The immature cells die out soon.

The disease is recognized by anemia and a severe decrease in the hemoglobin as the red blood cells are not produced properly. If not treated on time the person suffering may die within a span of few days.

Red blood cell (left), White blood cell (right), as seen from an electron microscope.
Red blood cell (left), White blood cell (right), as seen from an electron microscope.

Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia

In the acute lymphocytic leukemia the lymphoid cells start to grow rapidly but not as fast as in the acute myelocytic leukemia. In this the immature cells start to accumulate in the bone marrow rather than dying out.

The acute lymphocytic leukemia is a very common type of leukemia and mostly occurs in the children under the age of ten. It usually caused by mutation due to certain environmental factors but is not a heredity cancer.

The treatment of this cancer is possible only if diagnosed early otherwise the patient dies few days after the onset of cancer.

The Chronic Myelocytic Leukemia

The chronic myelocytic leukemia is not as common as the above mentioned leukemia but is mostly found in adults and not in children.

In this type of leukemia the Philadelphia chromosome found in the myelocytic cells code for an abnormal growth of white blood cells that accumulate slowly and gradually in different organs.

The symptoms appear when the growth of white blood cells eventually stops. This leukemia is curable and the accumulated cells are removed through chemotherapy.

Although it is caused due to a gene, this leukemia is not heredity.

Blood film of a patient with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia
Blood film of a patient with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia

The Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia

The chronic lymphocytic leukemia is a common type of leukemia and is probably the most dangerous of all the leukemia types as this type has no cure. It occurs in adults and not in children. This is a heredity disease which is more likely to appear in men.

In the chronic lymphocytic leukemia the lymphoid cells produce abnormally large white blood cells which are very long lived and accumulate very slowly in different organs.

Their accumulation is so slow that the first symptoms appear after the age of sixty when all the healthy blood cells are replaced by the abnormal cells. 

Hairy Cell Leukemia blood film
Hairy Cell Leukemia blood film

The Hairy Cell Leukemia

The hairy cell leukemia is a very rare type of leukemia and occurs in the B cells. Since the B cells give a hairy appearance under a microscope this leukemia is referred to as the hairy cell leukemia.

The cancer if found, is usually present in men and is diagnosed after the age of fifty. The cause of this leukemia is unknown.


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    • hassam profile image

      hassam 7 years ago from Pakistan

      I hope that too!

    • agusfanani profile image

      agusfanani 7 years ago from Indonesia

      Whatever the illnesses are, I hope they are all curable. this is an informative hub, thanks. Happy new year 2011 hassam.