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Specialists in the Field of Leukemia
Information About the Field of Leukemia
What Is Leukemia?
Leukemia is also commonly known as blood cancer. It is a malignant change in cells of the blood and lymphatic system. The change usually starts with a cell in the bone marrow, which then multiplies many times over and can reach all areas of the body via the blood. There are acute and chronic forms, symptoms show early in acute form and later in chronic form.
A subdivision is made according to the type of malignant cells: blood cells or lymph cells. Four groups of leukemia develop: acute myeloid leukemia (AML), acute lymphatic leukemia (ALL), chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) and chronic lymphatic leukemia (CLL). Compared to other cancers, leukemias are rare. Certain types occur particularly in childhood (ALL), others also in older patients.
Leukemia Causes and Symptoms
The causes are often unknown. In many cases, the causes are strong radiation (e.g. radiation therapy), carcinogenic substances (e.g. benzene), viruses, and certain gene alterations. As the mass reproduction of cancer cells suppresses normal blood formation, symptoms such as fatigue, efficiency drop, bleeding, increased susceptibility to infections, fever, night sweats, and weight loss occur.
If left untreated (especially the acute forms), they can lead to death within a few months. It is therefore important to start leukemia therapy early on with a hematologist-oncologist (specialist in blood disorders and cancer).
The goal of leukemia therapy is the destruction of all cancer cells and relief from the dangerous symptoms. A cure is only possible through leukemia therapy. For this purpose, an immediate start of treatment is necessary in the acute forms. In the chronic leukemia variants, especially in CLL, sometimes a wait-and-see approach is possible, as the disease progresses very slowly and the therapy is associated with significant side effects.
Procedure of Leukemia Therapy
Chemotherapy is the essential basic module for any kind of leukemia therapy. In most cases it is a polychemotherapy. Here the hematologist-oncologist administers several growth-inhibiting (cytostatic) drugs, which support each other in their effect. They attack the leukemia cells at different points with the aim of completely destroying the malignant cells.
Depending on the type of leukemia, additional radiotherapy, stem cell transplantation, or special targeted drugs follow. In the case of acute leukemias, it is essential to start treatment immediately. Various therapeutic procedures are followed, in which strong chemotherapeutic drugs are administered to the body via the venous system. The first stages of treatment (induction and consolidation phase) are therefore carried out on in inpatient settings, while the maintenance therapy necessary for ALL is carried out on in outpatient settings. The duration of therapy for AML is about 1 year, and for ALL about 2.5 years.
The leukemia therapy of chronic leukemias uses less aggressive chemotherapeutic agents and outpatient treatment with tablets is often sufficient. It allows the leukemia cells to be suppressed and symptom relief for years.
In CML, targeted therapies are used (tyrosine kinase inhibitors inhibit important processes in the leukemia cells), but chemotherapy and interferon therapies are also used. A cure, which can only be achieved by a bone marrow transplant from a healthy donor, is not possible with these therapies.
CLL spreads very slowly, so that it is possible to wait and check the blood values. Only in case of complaints or bad blood values the leukemia therapy is carried out, in which special antibodies are used in combination with chemotherapy. This therapy can be carried out on in outpatient settings for many years. CLL can only be
Chances of Recovery and Life Expectancy in Leukemia
The different forms of leukemia respond differently well to leukemia therapy. This leads to different prognoses depending on the type of leukemia, the age, and state of health of the patient.
ALL, for example, can be completely cured in more than 80% of cases in children, whereas CLL has poor chances of cure. On the other hand, survival and quality of life can be improved over many years by leukemia therapy.
The duration of leukemia in many cases is several months, if not years. The enormous dose of radiation and chemotherapy, in addition to acute damage such as hair loss or intestinal problems, can also be the trigger for a second leukemia or other types of cancer after years. For this reason, and also in order to detect and treat a relapse (recurrence) of the leukemia as early as possible, regular follow-up care by a hematologist-oncologist is extremely important. Because in many cases, relapses also have good treatment prospects.
Which Doctors and Hospitals Are Specialized in Leukemia?
Those who need a doctor want the best medical care. Therefore, the patient is wondering where to find the best clinic. Since this question cannot be answered objectively and a reliable doctor would never claim to be the best one, we can only rely on the doctor’s experience.
We will help you to find an expert for your disease. All listed doctors and clinics have been checked by us for their outstanding specialization in the field of leukemia and expect your inquiry or treatment request.
- Herold, Gerd: Innere Medizin. Köln, Eigenverlag 2012.
- Arasteh, K. ; Baenkler, H.-W. ; Bieber, C. ; et al.: Innere Medizin. Stuttgart, Georg Thieme Verlag KG 2009.
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