Leukemia is cancer of the blood cells - usually the white blood cells. Blood cells grow and mature in the bone marrow before they are pushed out into circulation. When someone has leukemia, the bone marrow produces abnormal white blood cells that are pushed out into circulation. The abnormal cells are leukemia cells. At first, leukemia cells function almost normally. Overtime, they may crowd out other cells in the circulation, making it hard for the normal cell to do their job.
There are four main types of leukemia, which can be further divided into subtypes. When classifying the type of leukemia, the first steps are to determine if the cancer is.
- acute myelogenous leukemia (AML)
- chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML)
- acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL)
- chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)
There are other types and subtypes of leukemias. Sometimes it is a chronic, or slow growing disease, and other times it is acute, or fast growing. It can also affect different types of white blood cells such as lymphoid cells or myeloid cells.
Children with leukemia have access to Beaumont Children’s Hospital Pediatric Oncology/Hematology specialists, which actively participates in the national Children’s Oncology Group (COG). Members of the group treat more than 90 percent of the children with cancer in the United States.