Leukaemia is a form of cancer that involves the abnormal replication of white blood cells (leukocytes, lymphocytes, monocytes, etc). These cells are the body’s “police” – they are responsible for defending and clearing up infections, injuries and threats from foreign materials.
Leukaemia is caused by a malignant change in the form of the blood cells. The cells that result from acute leukaemia (e.g. myeloblasts) replicate very quickly and suppress the healthy blood cells in the bone marrow. The diseased cells are released from the bone marrow into the bloodstream and can thereby travel to other organs, where they continue to divide and replicate uncontrollably.
There are two types of acute leukaemia:
Acute lymphocytic leukaemia (ALL): This type originates from the precursor cells of the lymphocytes (which are known as lymphoblasts) and mainly affects children, but can also affect older people.
Acute myeloid leukaemia (AML): This types originates from various precursor cells and mainly affects adults.
Acute forms of leukaemia are classified according to the family of cells from which they originate. For example, lymphatic, myeloid and undifferentiated leukaemia are categorised according to their origins.
Various methods are available for the diagnosis and therapy of leukaemia. The individual needs of the patient determine which methods are used and when. Aftercare for leukaemia patients consists mainly of regular check-ups.