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Leukaemia - The Introduction

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Bernice Clark |
LeukaemiaNumber of people describe leukaemia as a blood cancer. Exactly, leukaemia is a cancer of bone marrow, a 'factory' where our blood cells are created.


Answers on questions what is blood, where it is created and how it works will help us in better understanding of leukaemia.

Our blood is composed of blood cells and plasma, a fluid that transfers blood cells. Sponge-like tissue which fulfil bone holes is bone marrow, our bone "factory" where our blood cells are created. That marrow sends blood cells in our blood circulation when cells are mature and our body need it. Bone marrow product majority of blood cells when we are healthy. Those are red and white blood cells and blood platelets. Our body makes millions of red and white blood cells every second.

LeukaemiaAll blood cells normally stay inside the bone marrow until they become mature enough to circulate through our blood systems and do their tasks properly. Every blood cells get old and die, but their lifetime is very different. Red blood cells live longest, about four months after they leave the bone marrow. Blood platelets live for few days, while white blood cells live the shortest life, only a few hours. Just because of their shortest lifetime white blood cells and platelets cannot be replaced by blood transfusion so easily.

We can call our red blood cells "carriers of fuel" because they act like trucks that carry haemoglobin which transfers oxygen from lungs to all parts of our body. On their way around body our red cells collect waste and transfer it to lungs from which we breath it out as carbon dioxide. If patient doesn't have enough red blood cells it can feel tired and weak, and looks pale and exhausted.

On the other hand, white blood cells are fighters. They fight against infections, microbes and weak cells.

T-lymphocytes, B-lymphocytes, Neutrophils and Monocytes are part of white blood cells family. They all fight against infections but with different methods. T-lymphocytes control our immunity and they are able to destroy viruses and cancer cells. B-lymphocytes create antibodies. Neutrophils fight against infections, destroy bacteria and remove damaged tissue. Monocytes work together with lymphocytes in reactions against infections needed for antibodies production. All that shows that deficiency of white blood cells increases frequency and severity of infections which can be life dangerous.

Blood platelets or "repair cells" clot blood and prevent bleeding in cases when, for example, we damage vein by cutting it or in case of a bruise. If that is the case our blood tablets amass and hurry to "block" the damaged place. Insufficient number of "repair cells" in our blood circulation can cause frequent nose bleeding, extensively bleeding from the wound, abnormal bruises or intestinal bleeding. In very serious cases when that number is very low it can cause internal organs or brain bleeding.

Although all blood cells origin from the same basic cell, in their early developing phase they grow in two main families: myeloid and lymphoid family. Myeloid family encompasses all red blood cells, blood platelets and specific white blood cells. Myeloid white cells are the first defence against infection of human body.

LeukaemiaLymphoid family encompasses all other white cells and when they become mature they are called lymphocytes. Lymphoid cells need more time to get to work but they are also more specific in their battle. Lymph system is a body system for collecting, filtrating and drainage of waste. And while our blood circulates through our blood system, through lymph system circulates transparent fluid, lymph, which helps to transfer lymphocytes. So, we have lymphocytes in our lymph and in our blood.

Leukaemia appears when our body starts to collect abnormal white blood cells. The number of mature cells starts to decrease, and cells are "abnormal" because they cannot mature properly. That cells' inability to get mature is the main defect of blood.

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