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Leukemia is a type of blood cancer that causes the bone marrow to create abnormal, malfunctioning white cells. The abnormal cells overcrowd the healthy blood cells and stop the blood from functioning properly.
If you or a loved one has suffered from a negligent leukemia diagnosis, please call our office for a free consultation.
Types of Leukemia
Leukemia is classified by the type of cells it starts in and by the rate of progression. It can either be acute or chronic, and it can start in myeloid or in lymphoid cells.
Acute leukemia creates immature blood cells that reproduce quickly. Chronic leukemia involves mature blood cells and is associated with a variety of medical problems.
Myeloid cells become immature white blood cells called blasts that advance to become red blood cells, platelets, or certain kinds of white blood cells. Lymphoid cells grow into blasts that develop into different types white bloods cells.
There are four major types of leukemia:
Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) is a fast growing cancer that is the most common type of acute leukemia. With this type of cancer, white blood cells are immature and cannot function to keep the body free of infection. There are eight subtypes of AML.
Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) is also a fast growing cancer and develops primarily in B lymphatic cells that prevent infection in the body. ALL replaces the healthy production of stem cells (cells that can become any part of the blood—red blood cell, white blood cell, or platelet) with the production of abnormal stem cells. ALL stops the body from preventing infection.
Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML) is a slower growing cancer that is associated with the abnormal chromosome called the Philadelphia chromosome. CML can progress into an acute form of leukemia that can progress rapidly.
Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL) is a slower growing cancer that causes abnormal lymphocyte cells to multiply and overcrowd healthy cells in the bone marrow and blood, making it difficult for the body to fight infection.
Less common types of leukemia include Hairy cell leukemia, juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia, large granular lymptocytic leukemia, and blastic plasmacytoid dendritic cell neoplasm.
Leukemia Facts and Statistics
- In 2015 there will be about 54,270 new cases of leukemia.
- There will be about 24,450 deaths from leukemia in 2015.
- The average age of diagnosis for leukemia is 66.
- There are about 327,520 Americans currently living with leukemia.
- About 33% more males are living with leukemia than females. Men are more likely to be diagnosed with leukemia and die from the disease.
- Leukemia is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in children and young adults, but is diagnosed 10 times more frequently in adults than in children and young adults.
- The most common types of leukemia are acute myeloid leukemia (AML). With about 14,590 new cases each year, and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) with about 15,680 new cases each year.
- The five-year survival rate for AML is 25%.
- The five-year survival rate for ALL is 84%.
- The five-year survival rate for CML is 60%.
- The five-year survival rate for CLL is 84%.
Symptoms and Risk Factors
Leukemia can grow quickly and leave little time for treatment. But, it can also grow slowly over years and show few symptoms until an advanced stage. In order to make a correct and timely diagnosis, doctors need to know the risk factors associated with the disease.. Risk factors include:
- Age—certain leukemia cancers are more common in adults or children
- Previous radiation or chemotherapy treatments
- Certain genetic disorders and diseases like Down syndrome, myelodysplastic syndrome, and Trisomy 8
- Exposure to certain chemicals like Benzene that is found in gasoline and tobacco smoke
- Having a personal or family history or leukemia or other bone marrow disorders
Symptoms vary depending on the type of leukemia. Most symptoms will not manifest until the cancer has advanced. Symptoms include:
- Persistent fever
- Fatigue and weakness
- Bone and joint pain
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Bruising easily
- Unexplained bleeding or bleeding easily
- Night sweats
- Frequent infections
Leukemia can progress rapidly and become fatal. As such, a proper and timely diagnosis is essential. There are many types of leukemia, each requiring different treatments. In this regard, the right treatment depends entirely on making the right diagnosis.
To diagnose leukemia, doctors may order blood samples, biopsies (or tissue samples) or imaging tests like x-rays, CT scans, or MRI scans.
Slower growing chronic leukemias may be discovered through blood work for another condition.
Each leukemia type requires specific treatment. Thus, sending a patient down the wrong treatment path with the wrong diagnosis may allow the cancer to advance and cause permanent damage. Doctors need to know where the tumor is located, how advanced the tumor is, and what type of leukemia formed the tumor in order to decide on the best treatment option.
Many forms of leukemia will require some form of stem cell transplant or bone marrow transplant because leukemia affects the ability of the bone marrow to provide healthy stem cells that create blood.
Doctors may also treat leukemia with chemotherapy or radiation therapy to destroy cancer cells, although not all forms of leukemia will respond to these treatments.
Doctors can also try immunotherapy to help the patient’s own immune system destroy cancer cells.
Malpractice and Leukemia
There is little room for error in leukemia cases, especially in acute cases that grow and spread quickly. Patients need immediate treatment to have the best chance of recovery and survival. About 15% of all cancers are misdiagnosed, allowing the disease to spread and the patient’s condition to worsen.
If doctors fail to understand the patient’s medical history, fail to order proper diagnostic tests or to correctly interpret those tests, fail to identify the correct type of leukemia, or fail to communicate the diagnosis to the patient or to other relevant health care providers, they can be held responsible.
If you or a loved one has suffered serious harm from a failed, delayed, or misdiagnosed leukemia, call Gilman & Bedigian today to start your case and learn more about your legal options. You may be eligible to receive compensation. Our experienced medical malpractice attorneys are here to help you.