Leukemia is a cancer of the blood or bone marrow characterized by an abnormal proliferation of blood cells, usually white blood cells (leukocytes). It is part of the broad group of diseases called hematological neoplasms.
Acute leukemia is characterized by the rapid growth of immature blood cells.Acute forms of leukemia can occur in children and young adults. (In fact, it is a more common cause of death for children in the US than any other type of malignant disease.) Immediate treatment is required in acute leukemias due to the rapid progression and accumulation of the malignant cells, which then spill over into the bloodstream and spread to other organs of the body. If left untreated, the patient will die within months or even weeks.
Chronic leukemia is distinguished by the excessive build up of relatively mature, but still abnormal, blood cells. Typically taking months to years to progress, the cells are produced at a much higher rate than normal cells, resulting in many abnormal white blood cells in the blood. Chronic leukemia mostly occurs in older people, but can theoretically occur in any age group. Whereas acute leukemia must be treated immediately, chronic forms are sometimes monitored for some time before treatment to ensure maximum effectiveness of therapy
Follow-up therapy for such patients may involve:
supportive care, such as intravenous nutrition and treatment with oral antibiotics (e.g., ofloxacin, rifampin), especially in patients who have prolonged granulocytopenia; that is too few mature granulocytes (neutrophils), the bacteria-destroying white blood cells that contain small particles, or granules (< 100 granulocytes per cubic millimeter for 2 weeks)
injection with colony-stimulating factors such as granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF), which may help to shorten the period of granulocytopenia that results from induction therapy
transfusions with red blood cells and platelets