Leukemia: Location and Types

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  • 0:01 What Is Leukemia &…
  • 1:54 Naming of Leukemia
  • 3:01 Main Types of Leukemia
  • 4:39 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

Leukemia is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow that involves the overproduction of white blood cells. Learn about the different types of leukemia: Acute Lymphocytic, Acute Myelogenous, Chronic Lymphatic and Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia.

What Is Leukemia & Where Is It Found?

I'm going to guess that most of you watching this video are sitting down in a chair. Sitting is a pretty basic part of everyday life, but you wouldn't be able to stay upright in your seat if it wasn't for your skeletal system. Without your bony skeleton, your body would have no structure and you would be a blob of tissues that slides off the side of your chair and onto the ground.

Yet bones are not only a means of support. Inside your bones, there's a soft, spongy tissue called your bone marrow, which is the site for blood cell production. Your bone marrow makes three types of cells: red blood cells, which carry oxygen around your body; white blood cells, which protect the body from infection and disease; and platelets, which are actually fragments of cells that are important for blood clotting. The bone marrow works very efficiently in most people, producing just enough cells to meet the body's needs.

However, some people develop leukemia, which is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow in which the bone marrow produces many abnormal white blood cells. Leukemia is a fairly easy term to recall if you remember that 'leuk' refers to white cells and 'emia' refers to a condition or having excessive substances in the blood. Therefore, 'leukemia' literally means 'excessive white cells.' The overabundance of white cells crowds out the red blood cells and platelets, and their numbers diminish.

So if we are considering where in the body leukemia starts, we would say that it starts in the bone marrow, but it doesn't necessarily stay in the bone marrow. This is because the abnormal cells can be transported to other areas of the body, such as the lymph nodes, brain, and spinal cord, as well as other organs and tissues.

Naming of Leukemia

There are different types of leukemia. They are labeled or named according to how fast they develop. Some types of leukemia are labeled 'acute,' meaning there is a rapid worsening. With acute leukemia we see the white blood cell count multiplying quickly and symptoms worsening over a short period of time, possibly in a matter of days. Leukemia can also be labeled as 'chronic.' With chronic leukemia, we see a slow progression of the condition, with development happening over a period of months or years.

Besides acute and chronic, leukemia is also labeled by which cells are overproduced. There are two young cells of the bone marrow that we consider when looking at the different types of leukemia: lymphoid and myeloid.

So we see that types of leukemia can be classified as acute or chronic. But they can also be classified as 'lymphocytic' if the leukemia starts in the lymphoid cells or 'myelogenous' if the disorder starts in the myeloid cells.

Main Types of Leukemia

With these variables, we can come up with a simple graph that allows us to piece together the four main types of leukemia. We see here that a person could develop Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL). ALL is the most common type of leukemia in children. So to help jog your memory, you might want to think of ALL as the cancer that 'Affects Little Lambs.'

Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML) is a different type of leukemia. It is more common in adults of both sexes. To help remember AML you might want to think of the letters standing for 'Adult Men & Ladies.'

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