Leukemia is a type of cancer that affects the body’s blood cells. It develops within the bone marrow, which is responsible for making cells that develop into white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets. These are all necessary components for the optimal function of blood within the body.
When a person has leukemia, the bone marrow malfunctions and begins producing a large number of abnormal cells. This most often affects the white blood cells but can also impact other blood cells.
Abnormal blood cells don’t function like normal white blood cells, which fight off infection. These abnormal cells can’t fend off infection and can make it more difficult for the bone marrow to produce red blood cells and platelets.
Leukemia can be either acute or chronic. Acute leukemia progresses quickly and requires immediate treatment, while chronic leukemia is slow-growing and progresses over time.
There are numerous types of leukemia:
- Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). ALL, which is also called acute lymphocytic leukemia and acute lymphoid leukemia, starts in the bone marrow. This type of leukemia is the most common type among children and can also affect adults.
- Acute myeloid leukemia (AML). AML, which is also called acute myelocytic leukemia, acute myelogenous leukemia or acute nonlymphocytic leukemia, primarily affects blood cells that aren’t fully developed, keeping them from functioning normally. AML is most common in older adults but can affect children.
- B-cell prolymphocytic leukemia (B-PLL). B-PLL is a rare leukemia diagnosis typically affecting older adults. This type of leukemia is aggressive and causes out-of-control growth of B-cells, which are part of the immune system.
- Blastic plasmacytoid dendritic cell neoplasm (BPDCN). BPDCN is a type of leukemia that isn’t well-understood and may be underdiagnosed. This type of cancer frequently involves the skin but progresses to affect the bone marrow and cause a decrease in all types of blood cells.
- Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). CLL begins within the lymphocytes in the bone marrow and can progress either quickly or slowly over time. This type of leukemia, which typically occurs in middle age or later, is the most common type among adults in Western countries, including the United States.
- Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). CML starts in the bone marrow and moves into the blood. It typically affects adults in middle age or later and is often diagnosed in its chronic phase, when treatment is very effective.
- Chronic myelomonocytic leukemia (CMML). CMML is a rare type of blood cancer that most commonly affects older adults and is more common in men. Like CML, it begins in the blood-forming cells of the bone marrow and moves into the blood.
- Hairy cell leukemia (HCL). HCL is a rare type of chronic leukemia that’s typically quite treatable. Its unusual name comes from short, hair-like projections on its cells.
- Juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia (JMML). JMML, also called juvenile chronic myeloid leukemia, is a rare type of blood cancer that is most often diagnosed in children younger than age 4.
- Large granular lymphocytic leukemia (LGL). LGL is an uncommon type of leukemia that affects the lymphocytes in the bone marrow. It most often affects those age 60 and older.
- T-Cell prolymphocytic leukemia (T-PLL). T-PLL is an extremely rare type of leukemia that causes out-of-control growth of T-cells, a type of white blood cell that fends off infection. It’s most common in older adults and more frequently diagnosed in men.
Leukemia at UK Markey Cancer Center
Markey's Hematology and Blood & Marrow Transplant team provides expert consultation and ongoing care for patients with leukemia.
Using state-of-the-art technology and leading-edge medical and surgical interventions, the Hematology and Blood & Marrow Transplant team provides advanced and timely diagnosis and individualized, ongoing care for patients. Each patient is cared for by a team of specialists who meet regularly to discuss individual patient cases and treatment plans. This multidisciplinary team will work with you and your doctor to coordinate a care plan designed to offer the best outcomes.
Markey has provided state-of-the-art cancer care for more than 30 years, and we are proud to be the only cancer center in Kentucky designated by the National Cancer Institute. Since 2017, Markey Cancer Center has been nationally recognized as a top 50 cancer center by U.S. News & World Report.
There are many types of leukemia, affecting the body and blood cells in different ways. Because of that, signs of leukemia will vary depending on type. Leukemia symptoms may include:
- Achy bones or joints
- Bleeding gums
- Enlarged or tender lymph nodes
- Excess fatigue
- Frequent infections
- Frequent nosebleeds
- Menstrual periods that are heavier than normal or more frequent
- Night sweats
- Pale skin
- Prolonged bleeding from minor cuts and scrapes
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Unexplainable weight loss or a change in appetite
Survival rates vary tremendously for the different types of leukemia.
According to the American Cancer Society, it is unknown how to prevent most leukemia cases.
- Advanced age, with most types commonly diagnosed after age 60
- Certain blood problems, including congenital syndromes such as Down syndrome
- Exposure to chemicals such as benzene and organic solvents
- Exposure to excessive radiation, including medical radiation
- Family history of leukemia
- For your first visit, you will be directed to the registration area on the first floor of the Ben F. Roach Cancer Care Facility. Open Google Maps.
- You can register at the front desk or registration area, where a Markey team member will help guide you through your appointment.
- Several parking options are available to patients of Markey Cancer Center.
- Please remember to bring your patient packet with the completed forms. These items will help your doctor learn more about your case and determine the best plan for your care.
Clinical trials are research studies aimed at evaluating medical, surgical or behavioral interventions to determine if a new treatment is safe and effective. At Markey, we are advancing cancer care and research to prevent, detect and treat. As a patient at Markey, you have a team of people looking at your individual case and applying the most recent cancer knowledge to give you the best chance of survival.
Markey has more open clinical trials than any other cancer center in the region, giving you access to some of the most advanced options available. Learn more about ongoing clinical trials for treating leukemia below.