Both leukemia and bone cancer are cancers that primarily afflict children and young adults.
This is a disease that originates in the bone marrow, the site of blood cell production. The term leukemia, which is derived from Greek words that mean literally "white blood," refers to the presence of excessive numbers of white blood cells, especially immature and poorly functioning forms of these cells.
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The symptoms of leukemia are caused by the impairment of normal blood cell functions. The primary role of white blood cells is fighting infection. Since many of the white blood cells present are immature, they function poorly and infections are common. Other blood cell types normally present in bone marrow (red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout the body, and platelets, which are needed for blood clotting) may be crowded out by the cancerous leukemic cells. As a result, symptoms of deficiency of these cell types are often evident in leukemia patients. Symptoms include poor blood clotting ability (due to a shortage of platelets) and fatigue resulting from anemia (due to decreased numbers of red blood cells). Other symptoms are easy bruising, bleeding from the gums, blood in the stools, fever, and frequent infections. The spleen and lymph nodes are usually enlarged.
Leukemia is often treated first with intensive chemotherapy to kill the cancer cells. The patient may appear to become even more ill during treatment because of the side effects of the cancer-fighting drugs. After this initial phase, radiation and additional drugs may be administered. Bone marrow transplants are now often used.
Leukemia is the most common form of cancer in children. In recent years, the outlook has improved dramatically for children with this disease. Twenty years ago, nearly all children who suffered from leukemia died. Today, the life spans of many have increased.
This rare form of cancer is most common in those between the ages of 5 and 20. Predisposing factors include bone diseases, bone fractures, and exposure to radiation. Bone cancer is more common as a secondary condition -- the result of another cancer that has spread to the bones from another site.
Next, we will learn about lymphoma. In the past this type of cancer was almost impossible to detect early enough to treat. Recent advances have changed this.
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