Leukaemia: Understanding the Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options for a Cancer of the Blood and Bone Marrow


Leukaemia is a form of cancer that impacts the blood and bone marrow, causing an abnormal increase in the production of immature white blood cells. This overproduction interferes with the normal production of healthy blood cells, leading to a weakened immune system, anaemia, and susceptibility to infections.
Understanding the symptoms, causes, and treatment options of leukaemia can help people and their loved ones identify the disease early and seek appropriate treatment. Early diagnosis and treatment can improve the chances of a successful outcome, such as remission and long-term survival. If you want to know more about leukaemia, this article is what you seek.

Leukaemia Classification

Leukaemia is classified based on how fast it progresses and the type of blood cell affected. The two main categories of leukaemia based on the development speed are acute and chronic.

    • Acute leukaemia develops rapidly and progresses quickly, often within weeks to a few months. It is characterised by immature blood cells, called blasts, which cannot perform normal blood cell functions. Acute leukaemia is divided into two subtypes:
      • acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) originates in lymphoid cells, and
      • acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) arises from myeloid cells.
    • Chronic leukaemia, on the other hand, develops more slowly and progresses over years. It is characterised by mature but abnormal blood cells that may function normally. Chronic leukaemia is divided into two subtypes:
      • chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL), which arises from lymphoid cells, and
      • chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML), which arises from myeloid cells.

These are two distinct types of chronic leukaemia characterised by the cell lineage that gives rise to the malignant cells.
The second-way leukaemia is classified based on the type of blood cell involved.

    • Lymphocytic leukaemia affects the lymphoid cells, which are responsible for producing white blood cells that fight infection.
    • Myeloid leukaemia affects the myeloid cells, which produce red blood cells, platelets, and some white blood cells.

Causes of Leukaemia

Leukaemia is a type of cancer that occurs when blood cells undergo changes or mutations in their genetic material or DNA. The DNA of a cell contains instructions that manage its growth and lifespan. Generally, DNA instructs cells to develop at a selected rate and to die at a specific time. However, in leukaemia, genetic mutations cause the blood cells to keep developing and dividing uncontrollably.
As a result, the production of blood cells becomes unregulated and out of control. In addition, as time passes, the once-normal cells can crowd out the healthy blood cells in the bone marrow, which can decrease healthy white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. The precise cause of mutations is not yet fully understood. However, they may be influenced by way of various factors, which include:

    • Have a family history.
    • Genetic disorder
    • Smoke
    • Exposed to radiation
    • Had radiation therapy or chemotherapy
    • Few people may have a genetic predisposition that increases their leukaemia risk.

Symptoms of Leukaemia

The symptoms of leukaemia can vary depending on the type and stage of the disease. However, some common signs include the following:

    • Fever
    • Bone pain or tenderness
    • Recurrent nosebleeds
    • Tiny red spots
    • Swollen lymph nodes, enlarged liver or spleen
    • Weakness
    • Easy bruising
    • Vomiting
    • Seizures
    • Shortness of breath

Treatment of Leukaemia

    • Chemotherapy: the most commonly used treatment that targets cancer cells all through the body via the bloodstream.
    • Centred therapy: focuses on attacking specific parts of most cancer cells and can be an alternative to chemotherapy in certain instances.
    • Immunotherapy: a newer treatment that enables the affected person’s immune system to recognise and destroy cancer cells.
    • Surgical treatment: has a limited role in treating ALL and is rarely used, except for possible lymph node biopsy
    • Radiation therapy: uses high-energy radiation to target cancer cells and is often combined with chemotherapy.
    • Stem cell transplant: a more invasive treatment that involves higher doses of chemotherapy accompanied by an infusion of blood-forming stem cells to restore the patient’s bone marrow.

Leukaemia – Risk Factors

This condition is associated with various factors such as:

    • Genetic predisposition: Leukaemia is known to have a higher chance of occurrence with genetic mutation and chromosomal abnormalities. These mutations may be inherited or acquired over time.
    • Radiation: Being exposed to certain radiation levels, such as during cancer treatment or from environmental sources, has been linked to an increased risk of leukaemia.
    • Chemicals: Individuals who have had exposure to certain chemicals such as benzene and formaldehyde
    • Smoking: Smoking cigarettes or being exposed to secondhand smoke can become a reason for developing leukaemia.
    • Previous chemotherapy or radiation therapy: Previous treatment for other cancers with chemotherapy or radiation therapy may increase the risk of developing leukaemia later in life.
    • Age: Leukaemia can occur at any age, but the risk increases as people age.
    • Some people are in increased danger of developing acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) because of certain blood disorders. Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) is one such disease that could increase the chance of developing AML.


Multiple medications are used to treat leukaemia, contingent upon the type and stage of leukaemia. Some commonly used medications include:

    • Imatinib (Gleevec) is a targeted therapy drug for treating chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML).
    • Dasatinib (Sprycel) is another targeted therapy drug used to treat CML.
    • Nilotinib (Tasigna): This is a targeted therapy drug used to treat CML.
    • Fludarabine (Fludara): This is a chemotherapy drug used to treat CLL.
    • Cytarabine (Cytosar-U) is a chemotherapy drug for treating acute myeloid leukaemia (AML).
    • Methotrexate is a chemotherapy drug used to treat acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL).

Opting for medication will be determined by factors such as the type and stage of leukaemia, the patient’s overall health and medical history, and other factors.

When to Consult a Doctor

You can also get in touch with the expert Oncology doctors at Narayana Healthcare based in your city to get immediate attention and medical support during injuries, health disorders or any other health concern.


Q. What is leukaemia?
Leukaemia is a type of cancer that impacts the blood, causing the proliferation of abnormal blood cells. This unregulated growth occurs in the bone marrow, which generates most of the body’s blood.

Q. What are the symptoms of leukaemia?
The symptoms of leukaemia can vary depending on the type and stage of the disease. However, some common signs are:

    • Fatigue and weakness
    • Frequent infection
    • Unexplained fever
    • Loss of appetite
    • Excessive perspiration
    • Easy bruising and bleeding
    • Swollen lymph nodes
    • Bone pain
    • Weight loss

Q. What causes leukaemia?
The precise cause of leukaemia needs to be comprehensively comprehended, but it is believed to be a complex interplay of genetic and environmental factors. Some of the known causes of leukaemia are:

    • Genetic mutations.
    • Exposure to radiation
    • Exposure to certain chemicals
    • Immune system disorders

Q. How is leukaemia treated?
There are several ways to treat leukaemia, such as chemotherapy, Radiation therapy, Stem cell transplant, Targeted therapy, immunotherapy, etc.

Q. Can leukaemia be prevented?
A. Currently, there are no foolproof methods because the exact cause of it has yet to be discovered. Yet, there are a few measures that can reduce the risk, such as:

    • Reduce exposure to radiation
    • Maintain healthy lifestyle
    • Avoid tobacco and smoking
    • Healthy diet

Reference Links-  

    • https://www.webmd.com/cancer/lymphoma/understanding-Leukaemia-basics
    • https://www.oncoplus.co.in/Leukaemia-treatment-options-in-india/
    • https://www.narayanahealth.org/blog/total-body-radiation-therapy-for-patients-with-blood-cancers/
    • https://medsurgeindia.com/cost/Leukaemia-treatment-cost-in-india/
Narayana Health

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