- Introduction* Leukaemia is cancer of the white blood cells. There are many different types of white blood cells and therefore many types of Leukaemia. The main types of Leukaemia are acute and chronic lymphocytic and myeloid Leukaemias.
- About* White blood cells are important for resistance to disease. They are formed in the bone marrow as identical cells and then change over time into different specialised forms. At the simplest level, white blood cells are divided into two groups called lymphocytes and myelocytes. Cancer of these cells is known as lymphocytic Leukaemia or myeloid Leukaemia. They are acute or chronic Leukaemias, depending on how fast the disorder progresses. Acute means that the disease progresses quickly, whereas chronic means the disease progresses slowly.
Acute Lymphocytic Leukaemia (*All)* This is a rapidly progressing form of Leukaemia characterised by replacement of normal bone marrow by cancerous cells. Leukaemic cells accumulate in the bone marrow and spread to the liver, spleen, lymph nodes, central nervous system, kidneys and gonads (testicles and ovaries). The usual age of onset is 3-7 years, but may also occur in adults. It is the main Leukaemia of childhood. Complete recovery is the goal of treatment in this form of Leukaemia, especially in younger people. Treatment involves a combination of drugs and sometimes blood transfusions, radiation therapy and bone marrow transplants. Complete recovery is achieved in 40-60% of cases. Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (*Aml)* Occurs mainly in the elderly, but may also affect younger adults and children. Its effects are similar to ALL. Treatment is similar, although blood transfusions and more intensive radiotherapy is sometimes required. Cure rates can be as high as 60%. Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia (CLL) Occurs mainly in the elderly (average age 60 yrs). In most people with this form of Leukaemia, the disorder progresses slowly over a number of years. In around 5% of people, however, it can progress rapidly. The symptoms are often vague and in many cases, the person may be observed for 3-4 years before treatment begins. CLL is incurable, but with treatment, the progress can often be slowed. The average time of survival after diagnosis is 12 years. Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia (CML) Affects mainly middle aged to elderly people. Like CLL, it progresses slowly and treatment may be delayed until symptoms or white cell counts become worse. Medication does not cure CML, but does slow its progression. Drug therapy alone gives a survival period of four years. With bone marrow transplantation, this condition can be cured in around 60% of people.
- Signs and symptoms* Signs and symptoms may vary between different forms of Leukaemia. Signs and symptoms in the acute forms are rapidly progressive and more severe than those of the chronic forms. The following features are commonly found in all types of Leukaemia: - Tiredness. - Recurrent infections. - Enlargement of the liver, spleen and lymph glands in the neck, armpit and groin. - Intermittent fever - adults. - Nosebleeds and bleeding from the gums.
- Health care* In no way is this information intended to replace the advice of a medical practitioner. Always consult your Doctor for diagnosis and advice. Chemotherapy (drug therapy), radiation therapy and bone marrow transplant may all be treatment options. For some chronic Leukaemias, people may have no symptoms and observation by the Doctor may be all that is required. Treatment will depend on the individual's reaction to treatment, the results of tests, the form of Leukaemia and the preference of the treating team. These treatments have a range of side effects and require constant monitoring and testing of the patient. Blood transfusions may also be required.
- Diet tips* 1) Reduce intake of refined and processed foods, which have little nutritional value. Avoid cakes, sweets, sugar, soft drinks, processed meats and fast food. 2) Avoid saturated fats found in butter, cream, full-fat dairy products, fried foods and animal fat. 3) Fish oil, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, can reduce the severity of some Leukaemias. Eat at least 3 servings of fish per day. Salmon, tuna, mackerel and sardines are the best sources of fish oils. 4) Vitamin C boosts the immune system and helps slow the progression of Leukaemia. Eat plenty of raw capsicum, green vegetables, citrus fruit and berries. 5) Garlic has been shown to slow down the growth of Leukaemia cells.. 6) Drink 6-8 glasses of filtered water daily to maintain hydration.
- Vits/mins/herbs* The following supplements are known to boost the immune system and decrease the spread of cancer cells. Supplementation may only be beneficial if the diet is inadequate. 1) Essential fatty acids 2) Vitamin C 3) Garlic and echinacea.