How does blood cancer spread

Leukemia (blood cancer)

Leukemia is actually not a single disease, but several. Doctors divide it up according to which course it takes, acute or chronic, and which blood cells are affected. Acute leukemia can occur suddenly at any age. It is quick and, if left untreated, fatal. Doctors describe leukemia as chronic, which tends to be insidious and causes symptoms late on.

The different shapes are:

Acute leukemia

Doctors differentiate between acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and acute lymphatic leukemia (ALL). In acute myeloid leukemia (AML), the change affects myeloid progenitor cells. The cells, so-called myeloid blasts, do not mature into functional blood cells. It is rare in children and more likely to occur in adults. ALL, on the other hand, is the most common type of leukemia in children, but is rare in adults. Too many immature, non-functional lymphocytes are found in the patients. The change underlying the outbreak of the disease already happened at a preliminary stage in the formation of the lymphocytes, the cells do not develop further, and blood formation is disturbed. ALL progresses rapidly and, if left untreated, leads to death within a short time.

Chronic leukemia

There are the Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) and the Chronic lymphatic leukemia (CLL), which is a special case (see a paragraph below). Almost all CML patients have a genetic change: the Philadelphia chromosome, which is likely to be involved in the development of leukemia. With the disease, a certain form of white blood cells multiplies in an uncontrolled manner and these pass from the bone marrow into the blood. At diagnosis, up to 500,000 leukocytes per microliter of blood are found (4,000 to 10,000 are normal). This excess of white blood cells can lead to potentially fatal complications such as blood clots and vascular occlusions. CLL is the most common leukemia disease in Europe.

Special case of chronic lymphatic leukemia (CLL)

Despite the name, chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) does not count as a leukemia: experts now assign it to malignant lymphomas, i.e. the group of lymph gland cancer. In CLL, mature lymphocytes, usually found in the lymph nodes and tissues, change. The term leukemia in the name comes from the fact that the changed lymphocytes in CLL patients usually also occur in the blood.

In the case of lymphatic leukemia, doctors also differentiate between an acute form (acute lymphatic leukemia, ALL) and a chronic form (chronic lymphatic leukemia, CLL). ALL is the most common type of leukemia in children, while older adults are more likely to develop CLL. Both forms have in common that they are the lymphatic progenitor cells, from which the lymphocytes later develop. In lymphocytic leukemia, the body produces large amounts of immature lymphocytes that displace healthy cells.

Childhood leukemia

Children can get leukemia too - in fact, leukemia is the most common pre-adult cancer. At 80 percent, it occurs most frequently under the age of 15 acute lymphoblastic leukemia, short ALL. Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) has a share of up to 20 percent in childhood.