What is Leukemia?
Leukemia encompasses a group of cancers that affect leukocytes – the white blood cells that form in the bone marrow. Normally, bone marrow develops red and white blood cells as well as platelets to help fight infections in the body, transport oxygen to cells, and help with blood clotting. However, when a person is diagnosed with leukemia, their body’s ability to create these vital parts of the blood is severely hindered.
Doctors often categorize leukemia into four types based on which white blood cell is involved – lymphocytes or myeloid – and whether the illness develops quickly (acute) or slowly over time (chronic):
Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) – CLL affects the lymphoid cells and develops slowly over time; usually affecting people over age 55.
Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) – CML affects the myeloid cells and develops slowly at first; affecting mostly adults.
Acute lymphocytic (lymphoblastic) leukemia (ALL) – ALL affects the lymphoid cells and grows rapidly; it is the most common type affecting young children but also affects adults.
Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) – MAL affects the myeloid cells and develops rapidly; affecting both adults and children.