The importance of leukemia screening

The importance of leukemia screening

Julie Scott, DNP
Julie Scott, DNP

What is Leukemia?

Leukemia is a type of cancer of cells in the body that make blood, most often white blood cells; however, leukemia can also form in other blood cells. When these cells become abnormal, they grow uncontrollably and become cancerous. There are multiple types of leukemia, which are divided into chronic and acute leukemias.

Some cancers have screening tests available to help look for cancer development early before cancer starts causing any symptoms. Leukemia has no screening tests and is discovered when evaluating the cause of symptoms.

Risk factors for Leukemia

Some of the risk factors for developing leukemia can include:

● Smoking cigarettes

● Family history of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma

● Exposure to chemicals such as benzene or Agent Orange

● History of radiation exposure

● History of receiving chemotherapy

● Increasing age

Symptoms of leukemia

Symptoms of leukemia lymphoma can include:

● Fevers, chills, night sweats

● Unintentional weight loss

● Appetite changes

● Enlarged lymph nodes

● Bleeding or easy bruising

● Frequent infections

● Abdominal pain

● Difficulty breathing

● Nosebleeds

Tests for leukemia

If you present to your healthcare provider for any of the above symptoms, they will likely start with a physical examination and evaluation of your history. They will pay particular attention to any lymph nodes that can be felt and examine the abdomen to see if the spleen can be felt. Blood work may also be done to evaluate the blood count and see how many white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets are present. Blood tests may also be done to check for infection, inflammation, or other disorders.

A blood test called flow cytometry can be done to evaluate the blood cells and see if leukemia cells are present. A bone marrow biopsy may be done to see if leukemia cells are present in the bone marrow.

Imaging studies such as a CT scan, ultrasound, or PET scan may be ordered to get a better picture of any enlarged lymph nodes in the body and to see if they look suspicious for the involvement of leukemia.

If you have not been screened for leukemia, It is important to do so if you have not been screened for leukemia. Leukemia is a type of cancer that begins in the blood-forming cells of the bone marrow. The cancerous cells crowd out the healthy blood cells, making it hard for the body to get oxygen and nutrients.

If detected early, there are treatments available that can help dramatically improve your prognosis and quality of life. Talk to your doctor today about getting screened for leukemia.

Julie Scott, DNP
Julie Scott, DNP
Julie is an oncology certified Oncology Nurse Practitioner with over a decade of medical oncology experience. In addition to her clinical work, she is an accomplished healthcare writer providing oncology content for various publications. She also serves as an adjunct faculty member for a Master's nursing program and a chair for Doctoral nursing students.

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