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Acute leukemia is a type of cancer of the blood and bone marrow cells. "Acute" indicates that the leukemia develops and advances quickly and requires immediate medical attention. In patients with acute leukemia the bone marrow produces an excessive amount of abnormal immature white blood cells which do not function normally. Patient may have low amounts of normal blood cells. There are 2 main types of acute leukemia, acute myeloid leukemia and acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.
Symptoms may differ between individuals, depending on the type of leukemia
Some symptoms are due to the increasing number of abnormal leukemia cells whereas others are caused by the lack of normal blood cells.
At present there is no routine screening test for leukemia. Individuals should seek medical attention if they have any of the above symptoms.
Currently there are also no proven preventive strategies for leukemias. However, adopting a healthy lifestyle may help to prevent disease. This includes:
Most people who develop acute leukemia have no known risk factors and the leukemia develop spontaneously. There are however some factors which may increase the risk of developing certain types of leukemia.
The diagnosis of acute leukemia is usually confirmed after performing a bone marrow test. The sample extracted during the procedure is used to confirm the type of leukemia and define certain characteristics which may guide treatment options.
The treatment of acute leukemia depends on the type and characteristics of the disease.
Some treatment options includes:
Haematopoietic stem cell transplantation may be appropriate for selected patients after initial chemotherapy.
Cellular therapy may be an option for some patients where germ-fighting T cells are re-engineered to fight cancer.
Supportive therapy in the form of blood transfusion, infection prevention and early treatment and management of side effects of treatment is also very important.
In SGH, we have a comprehensive inpatient and outpatient chemotherapy service and offer various options for acute leukemia treatment.