Leukemia is a form of malignancy characterized by the appearance of enormous numbers of white blood cells in the circulating blood. There are two main forms of leukemia, according to the primary cell type. These are designed lymphatic and myeloid.
Lymphatic leukemia arises, from a primary malignancy of the lymphatic system, and the circulating the blood contains an immerse number of lymphocytes, whereas myeloid leukemia arises from the leukecyte forming myeloid cells of the bone marrow and is characterized by an enormous preponderance of granulocytes in free circulation together with blast cells, which are primitive cells escaping from the marrow before maturation.
Each category is further subdivided into acute and chronic, depending upon the degree of malignancy, with the acute varieties tending to be much more common in children but by no means confined to this age group.
The symptoms of leukemia are increasing lassitude, anemia, ease of bruising, susceptibility of infections, loss of weight, night sweats, splenic and often liver enlargement. The diagnosis can be established by a simple differential blood count.
Today thanks to major advances in chemotherapy combined with radiotherapy, an increasing number of such patients can be cured, but such successful treatment requires special expertise and often special hospital facilities.
Polycythemia vera is a comparatively rare cancer of the bone marow cells responsible for red blood cell production. As a result of this disease circulating blood contains many more red blood cells than normal, leading to the characteristic florid plethoric appearance.
Although malignant, the disease usually pursues a relatively benign course, with frequent survival for very many years. Some control can be achieved by regular venesection and the use of radioactive isotopes such as radio chromium, which selectively localize in bone and cause marow suppression.
Multiple myelomatosis is not a uncommon cancer of the plasma cells of the bone marow concerned with the production of immunoglobulins. It is more common in men than in women and tends to occur in the latter decades of life.
The tumor cells produce an abnormal immunoglobulin that can be detected in the blood and, in many patients, in the urine. The illness may run a variable course but the usual picture is one of multiple expanding lesions of the skull and skeleton. Treatment, if required, is by chemotherapy.