factors place you at an increased risk of developing some types of
People who've had certain types of chemotherapy and radiation therapy
for other cancers have a slightly greater risk of developing certain
types of leukemia many years later.
Genetic abnormalities seem to play a role in the development of
leukemia. Certain genetic diseases, such as Down syndrome, are
associated with increased risk of leukemia.
Exposure to radiation and certain chemicals.
People exposed to very high levels of radiation, such as survivors of an
atomic bomb blast or a nuclear reactor accident, have an increased risk
of developing leukemia. Exposure to certain chemicals, such as benzene —
which is found in unleaded gasoline, tobacco smoke and the chemical
industry — is also linked to greater risk of some kinds of leukemia.
most people with known risk factors don't get leukemia. And many people
with leukemia have none of these risk factors.
When to seek medical advice
fatigue, weight loss, easy bruising and bleeding, swollen lymph glands,
and fever are possible indications of leukemia. If you have these
symptoms, see your doctor to determine the underlying cause.
Screening and diagnosis
often find chronic leukemia in a routine blood test, before symptoms
begin. If this happens, or if you or your child has symptoms that
suggest leukemia, you may undergo the following diagnostic exams:
Your doctor will look for physical signs of leukemia, such as swelling
of your lymph nodes, liver and spleen.
By looking at a sample of your blood, your doctor can determine if you
have abnormal levels of white blood cells or platelets — which are both
suggestive indicators of leukemia.
Bone marrow sample.
If your doctor suspects leukemia, he or she may refer you to a doctor
who specializes in cancer (oncologist) or a doctor who specializes in
blood (hematologist). This specialist can use a needle to remove a
sample of your bone marrow to look for leukemia cells.
are needed to confirm the diagnosis and to determine the type of
leukemia and its extent in your body. Certain types of leukemia are
classified into stages, indicating the severity of the disease. Staging
helps your doctor determine a treatment plan.