Leukemia

A cancer diagnosis might change your life forever, but it will bring out the very best in you. And at INTEGRIS, it also brings out the very best in us.

INTEGRIS Cancer Institute

Let’s fight this together.

We’re With You

Hearing the word “cancer” can be scary. But we want you to know that INTEGRIS will be with you every step of the way. That begins with understanding what a diagnosis of leukemia means. Leukemia is a cancer of your blood and bone marrow, which causes your body to produce abnormal and possibly aggressive blood cells.

Four Types

There are four main types of leukemia: acute myelogenous leukemia (AML), chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (LEUKEMIA). Acute leukemia involves cells reproducing malignantly when they’re still very young. Chronic leukemia involves cells reproducing malignantly after they’ve matured and had some period of normal function.

INTEGRIS Cancer Institute

A cancer diagnosis is always life-changing, and leukemia is no different. But at INTEGRIS, you have the depth and breadth of the INTEGRIS and the INTEGRIS Cancer Institute behind you, with the region’s foremost collection of therapies, physicians and specialists. We’ll be here for you every step of the way, from the first diagnosis and staging to treatment and even beyond – with rehabilitation designed specifically for cancer survivors.

The Multidisciplinary Cancer Clinic

Leukemia treatment used to mean dozens of appointments at different facilities with multiple specialists, but with our Multidisciplinary Cancer Clinic, the process is streamlined. We gather our physicians and specialists in one room to decide the best course of treatment for you. That means the time you have to spend between diagnosis and treatment is dramatically reduced.

We know this can be a challenging time, so please ask your physician about any concerns or questions you might have.

Understanding Leukemia

Leukemia is the most common type of cancer diagnosed in youth, accounting for about one-third of the cases of childhood cancer. In children and adults, white blood cells are the foundation of the body’s immune system. Consequently, leukemia symptoms often appear as symptoms of a compromised immune system and could be caused by other health issues, so it’s best to talk with your physician. These symptoms could include:

  • Increased occurrences of infections and fevers
  • General and noticeable weakness and fatigue
  • Anemia, indicated by easy bruising and excessive bleeding
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Swollen or tender lymph nodes or abdomen
  • Swollen gums that bleed easily
  • Bone and/or joint pain
  • Headaches
  • Vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Seizures
  • Swollen testicles
  • Sores in the eyes or on skin (such as tiny red dots under the skin’s surface)

If your doctor thinks you might have leukemia, exams and tests will be required to reach an accurate diagnosis. This begins with your physician asking questions about your health history, symptoms, risk factors and family history of disease, and may continue with more in-depth tests:

  • Blood Tests: Leukemia is often found with blood tests before a person has symptoms. Tests can look at the numbers of different types of blood cells. People with leukemia often have too many lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell.
  • Bone Marrow Aspiration and/or Biopsy: This procedure is done by taking a small amount of bone marrow fluid (aspiration) and/or solid bone marrow tissue (core biopsy), usually from the hip bones. The fluid and bone marrow are examined for the number, size and maturity of blood cells and abnormal cells. Other tests can also be done on these cells to predict how fast the leukemia is likely to grow.
  • Flow Cytometry and Immunohistochemistry: These tests are used on blood, bone marrow, or other biopsy samples to look for certain substances on the surface of the leukemia cells. This is called immunophenotyping and can be used to make the diagnosis of leukemia.
  • Cytogenetics: These tests can take a few weeks and look for changes in the chromosomes of cells from samples of blood, bone marrow or lymph nodes. For example, in some cases of leukemia, part of a chromosome may be missing.
  • Fluorescent in Situ Hybridization (FISH): This is a type of cytogenetic test using special fluorescent dyes that only attach to certain parts of chromosomes. It can be used to look for changes in chromosomes that are found in blood or bone marrow samples. The FISH test is very accurate and gives results more quickly than standard cytogenetic tests.

Your treatment program will be unique to you and your needs. Upon diagnosis, a plan is mapped out, taking into consideration your age, overall health and health history, how much the cancer has advanced, predicted course of the disease, tolerance for available procedures and medications, as well as your preferences and opinions. Initially, the treatment plan will address the anemia, bleeding, infection or other presenting symptoms. Initial treatment will be followed by additional therapy, which may include one or more of the following:

  • Chemotherapy: The use of anticancer drugs to treat cancerous cells by interfering with the cancer cell's ability to grow or reproduce, though some groups of drugs work differently.
  • Radiation Therapy: The use of high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells and to shrink tumors. This includes internal and external radiation.
  • Bone Marrow or Stem Cell Transplantation: A procedure to replace damaged or destroyed bone marrow with healthy bone marrow stem cells. Bone marrow is the soft, fatty tissue inside your bones that produces blood cells. Stem cells are immature cells in the bone marrow that give rise to all of your different blood cells.
  • Targeted Therapies: Newer medications called targeted therapies may be used alone or in concert with chemotherapy. Some of these target proteins are found more often on cancer cells than on normal cells. These medications have different (and often milder) side effects than standard chemotherapy medications and help people live longer.
  • Other medications for additional symptoms, or as prevention for secondary illnesses

At INTEGRIS, we offer a wide variety of support programs and services along with the Troy and Dollie Smith Wellness Center to help patients with breast cancer and their loved ones manage the physical and emotional effects of a cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Support services for leukemia include:

  • Cancer screenings
  • Clinical social work services
  • Counseling
  • Integrative medicine clinic
  • Mind, body therapies including acupuncture, massage, and yoga
  • Multi-disciplinary clinic coordination
  • Nutrition consultations
  • Pastoral care, spiritual support and relaxation techniques
  • Patient and family support groups
  • Patient navigation and survivor care planning
  • Research and clinical trials
  • Resource Room

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