Leukemia is a type of cancer affecting the cells that run in the blood. There are various types of leukemia, and some of them show acute symptoms appearing suddenly while others have a slow and chronic progression. Leukemia is one of the most common types of cancer in children, but it affects adults as well. It is more common in males than females and has a worldwide distribution with various risk factors that include tobacco, radiation exposure, and even some types of chemotherapy used to treat other forms of cancer. Leukemia has an important genetic predisposition, and if an identical twin has leukemia, his brother or sister would have a 20% chance of sharing the same disease.
There are various types of cells running in our blood, and we can break down leukemia in two types depending on which cell line is affected. Myeloid leukemia affects myeloblasts (the precursors of neutrophils and other white blood cells) while lymphoid leukemia affects lymphocytes, another type of white blood cell divided into T cells, B cells and natural killer cells. But leukemia does not only affect immunity. It triggers various health problems and symptoms we will cover in this article:
1. Hepatomegaly and splenomegaly
The abnormal blood cells that result from leukemia spread throughout the body using the circulatory system and reach various organs, including the spleen and the liver. The infiltration into these organs usually results in significant increases in the size of the liver (hepatomegaly) and the spleen (splenomegaly). Other common sites of infiltration are the skin and the gums, and some patients would have swollen and bleeding gums as well.
In these patients, the increase in the size of abdominal organs becomes an critical problem to address, and sometimes the spleen becomes large enough to reach the belly button and push back the stomach, reducing appetite in these patients. The reason why the spleen is one of the main sites of infiltration is that this organ has the function of clearing the blood from useless blood cells. Trying to fight off the disease, the spleen becomes larger and starts causing multiple health complaints.