What is leukemia?
Leukemia is a disorder involving blood cells. Healthy cells form in the bone marrow and mature into red blood cells (to deliver oxygen and nutrients to the body’s tissues), white blood cells (to fight infections) and platelets (to stop bleeding).
In patients with leukemia, these cells do not mature as they should or they transform into irregular blood cells that do not function normally. As abnormal cells build up in the bone marrow and bloodstream, the patient may experience anemia, susceptibility to infections and bleeding that does not clot due to the lack of functional red blood cells, white blood cells and/or platelets.
On a general scale, leukemia is classified by the types of cells affected (myeloid or lymphoid) and whether it is fast- or slow-growing (acute or chronic). As such, the four major subtypes of leukemia are:
- Acute myeloid leukemia (AML)
- Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL)
- Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML)
- Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)