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Leukemia is a very dangerous cancer of the body’s blood forming tissues, including the bone marrow and lymphatic system. This cancer can spread to children and even adults, and the symptoms for having this cancer are very vague. The symptoms are very similar to flu and other illnesses, being fatigue, swollen lymph nodes and fever. The cancer begins at the white blood cells, your white blood cells are what fight off infections and they grow and divide. While white blood cells do have a nucleus they do not undergo mitosis but they still retain the capability to undergo mitosis. People with leukemia, their bone marrow produces abnormal white blood cells that do not function properly, these abnormal white blood cells are called leukemia cells. The mutated white blood cells begin to crowd out normal red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets making it very difficult for the normal blood cells do perform their work in the body. Unlike normal blood cells, Leukemia cells don’t die when they are supposed to.
There are various types of leukemia; it can be acute, chronic, lymphocytic or myelogenous. In acute leukemia the illness get worse fast and makes you feel very fatigue almost immediately, while chronic leukemia is the opposite. Chronic leukemia happens slowly and may not show any symptoms for years. Lymphocytic leukemia affects white blood cells called the lymphocytes and myelogenous leukemia affects more of the other cells, generally the blood cells. These 4 types of leukemia are the most common.
Leukemia is spreading rapidly over the US, an estimated combined total of 156,420 people in the US are expected to be diagnosed with leukemia, lymphoma or myeloma in 2014. Also an estimated 1,129,813 people in the United States are living with, or are in remission from, leukemia, Hodgkin lymphoma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma or myeloma and there are an estimated 310,046 people living with, or in remission from, leukemia in the US. The common treatments for leukemia are Chemotherapy, Biological therapy, targeted therapy, radiation therapy and stem cell transplant. Chemotherapy is the use of chemicals to kill leukemia cells. Biological therapy helps the immune system recognize and attack the leukemia cells by the use of biological response modifiers. Targeted therapy, targets specific weaknesses in the cancer cells. Radiation therapy uses high energy beams to damage leukemia cells and stop their growth. Stem cell transplant is a procedure that removes your damaged, diseased, bone marrow and replaces it with healthy bone marrow.
For some of us Leukemia does not seem like a problem that affects us because we may not know anybody or have any relatives who have leukemia, but for Northwest students there is someone who is battling this cancer. Lauren Harding, she is a freshman here at Blue Valley Northwest. Lauren also has Down Syndrome on top all of that and she still manages to show a warm smile. She had already been diagnosed earlier and was able to survive but unfortunately the cancer has resurfaced. She now has to undergo treatment once again. But she is not alone in her fight; the Blue Valley Northwest family is right behind her with full support as she battles through this tough time. Leukemia does not just affect some us, it affects all of us.