Leukemia: Its Causes and Symptoms? How to Treat This Cancer?

Bajaj Finserv Health
February 21st, 2022
9 mins read

Key Takeaways

  • Leukemia is a common type of blood cancer originating in the bone marrow
  • There are four major types of leukemia and the treatment for each varies
  • Chemotherapy, radiation, surgery are some forms of leukemia treatment

Leukemia is a type of blood cancer that originates in the bone marrow [1]. It is most prevalent among children worldwide [2]. India reports more than 10,000 cases of childhood leukemia annually [3]. 

Leukemia is the cancer of the white blood cells in your blood. It occurs when the bone marrow produces an abnormal quantity of white blood cells. This uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells can affect any part of your body. It usually does not form a tumor unlike other types of cancer.

There are many types of leukemia. Some are more common in children while others are usually diagnosed in adults. Leukemia treatment depends on the type of leukemia and underlying factors.

Read on to know about its symptoms, types, causes and treatment.

Symptoms of leukemia,

  • Anemia or fatigue
  • Increased bleeding and bruising
  • Recurring or severe infections like mouth sores, sweats, coughing, sore throat
  • Swelling of lymph nodes, enlarged liver or spleen
  • Petechiae, tiny red spots on your skin
  • Fever or chills, headaches, vomiting
  • Persistent fatigue, weakness
  • Rapid loss of weight
  • Easy bleeding or bruising
  • Recurrent nosebleeds or shortness of breath
  • Excessive sweating, especially at night
  • Bone pain or tenderness

Additional Read: Types of Cancer

what is leukemia

Causes of leukemia

While the exact cause is not known, the following risk factors may play a role in its development.

  • Side effect of previous radiation or chemotherapy for other types of cancers
  • Genetic disorders like Down syndrome, or family history 
  • Repeated and excess exposure to the chemical benzene, found in cigarette smoke
  • Smoking, which increases your risk of developing acute myeloid leukemia (AML)
  • Blood disorders such as myelodysplastic syndrome

Types of leukemia

  • Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL)

It is one of the most common types of leukemia in children. It may spread to your central nervous system and lymph nodes. This type can progress quickly.

  • Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML)

AML is the second most common form of leukemia in children and the most common in adults. It may affect red, white blood cells and platelets.

  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)

This is also one of the most common types. It is more prevalent in adults over 65, especially men. It starts in white blood cells known as B cells and progresses slowly. 

  • Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML)

CML is an uncommon type and progresses slowly. It mainly affects older people and is a result of chromosome mutation. The cause of this mutation is not yet known, and its diagnosis is only done with the help of blood work.

anti-inflammatory food during cancer treatment

  • Other types 

Apart from these 4 major types, there are different subtypes as well. Lymphocytic leukemia includes the following subtypes

  • Hairy cell
  • Waldenstrom’s macroglobulinemia
  • Prolymphocytic cell 
  • Lymphoma cell

Myelogenous includes the following subtypes

  • Promyelocytic
  • Monocytic
  • Erythroleukemia
  • Megakaryocytic

Leukemia treatment


This is the main type of leukemia treatment and uses prescribed drugs to kill its cells. Depending on the type, your treatment may include either a single drug or a combination of drugs. You may get the drug in the form of pills or intravenous injection.


This form of treatment uses your body’s immune system to fight leukemia. Sometimes, your immune system may not locate and attack cancer cells that remain hidden with the help of the protein they produce. Immunotherapy interferes with this process.

Targeted therapy

Here the treatment focuses on a specific abnormality present in cancer cells. These cells may start to die when treatment blocks these abnormalities. Doctors measure its effectiveness by testing its cells.

Stem cell transplant

Its treatment replaces your diseased bone marrow with a healthy one. This is why it is also known as bone marrow transplant. It can take place in two forms, the first being autologous transplantation. This is where your own bone marrow is the replacement marrow. The other one is allogeneic transplantation. It is when a donor’s bone marrow replaces your own.

Clinical trials

These experiments help determine the efficiency of new cancer treatments. They also allow doctors to find new ways to use existing treatments more effectively. Before opting for this as treatment, talk to your doctor about benefits and risks.


Also known as radiation therapy, this leukemia treatment method uses high-energy radiation. This helps damage and stop the growth of cells. The radiation may focus on the entire body or a specific area.

Additional Read: Radiotherapy for Cancer

Timely diagnosis is one of the best ways you can manage and treat different types of cancer such as leukemia. If you notice any symptoms of , book an in-person or online consultation on Bajaj Finserv Health. Consult with the best oncologists on the platform and prioritize your health. You can also book lab tests including a cancer test, to stay ahead of potential health conditions and track your progress.

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