Advances in Leukaemia Diagnosis and Treatment Options: A Comprehensive Guide

By Dr. Nivedita Dhingra in Bone Marrow Transplant

Feb 19 , 2024 | 1 min read

Leukaemia, or blood cancer, is a condition in which there is an abnormal proliferation of white blood cells. Depending on the cell of origin, it is classified as myeloid or lymphoid leukaemia, and depending on the speed at which leukaemia develops, it can be divided into acute and chronic. Acute leukaemia can occur in any age group, and there is no preference for any particular sex. 

Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) is the most common blood cancer seen in children, although it affects adults and the elderly too. It arises from lymphocytes. Common symptoms include unexplained fever, anaemia or lethargy, bone pains and bleeding into skin and mucus membranes. 

Acute myeloid leukaemia is more prevalent in adults. It also often presents with unexplained fever and pallor.

Acute promyelocytic leukaemia is a special type of AML which can present with severe bleeding symptoms that need urgent diagnosis and treatment. 

Chronic leukaemias include chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) and Chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML). Often, these are diseases seen in older people, although CML can occur in younger people, including children. These leukaemias evolve slowly and require less intensive treatment.

Leukaemia diagnosis begins with a simple blood test called complete blood count. It shows low haemoglobin and platelets with increased or decreased white blood cells. A bone marrow test, a bedside procedure, is performed to confirm the diagnosis. Certain special molecular and cytogenetic tests are also done to decide the best course of treatment for the patient. Acute leukaemias are medical emergencies and need immediate action with hospitalisation and prompt initiation of therapy. For chronic leukaemias, management is OPD-based with oral targeted drugs that are both effective and mostly well tolerated. For high-risk and relapsed leukaemias, a bone marrow transplant is required to completely eradicate the disease. More modern treatments such as bispecific antibodies, targeted therapies, and CAR-T cells are also now available, which can potentially be curative even for multiply relapsed cases. 

A diagnosis of leukaemia is a life-changing event, but if the right treatment is given in a timely fashion with compassion and attention to detail, a vast majority of patients can be completely cured and live productive lives.

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