Leukemia is one of the main types of blood cancer that usually begins in the bone marrow. Due to the abnormal and uncontrolled growth of white blood cells in the body that displaces the red blood cells and platelets necessary to maintain the body’s health.
If left undiagnosed or untreated, leukemia can become deadly. Because of this, it is important to detect and diagnose the disease early through a cancer screening test in Singapore if you’re experiencing persistent signs or symptoms. Getting the right information about leukemia is also necessary for detecting, diagnosing, and managing cancer. Here are the most common misconceptions about leukemia that everyone should be aware of:
1. Leukemia Only Refers to One Condition
A common misconception about leukemia is that it only refers to one condition. However, the term “leukemia” is actually just a catch-all phrase for cancers of the white blood cells.
Leukemia is classified according to how quickly it progresses (chronic or acute) and which blood cells it affects (lymphocytic or myelogenous). Depending on the type of leukemia, the symptoms, treatment options and outlooks differ.
2. Leukemia Only Affects Children
Leukemia is currently the most common cancer of children in Singapore, accounting for about 40 per cent of all childhood cancers1. However, it is a misconception to think that leukemia only affects children. In fact, according to medical reports, the risk of developing leukemia increases with age.
More and more patients over the age of 65 are being diagnosed with the disease. Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) are the most common forms of leukemia in adults.
3. The Symptoms of Leukemia are Very Specific
Many people think that leukemia can be easily detected; however, in reality, the symptoms of leukemia are generally vague and non-specific. This makes it easy for patients to overlook the presence of the disease because its symptoms frequently resemble those of other common illnesses.
As mentioned earlier, the symptoms of leukemia vary depending on its type, but among the most common signs and symptoms of the disease are persistent fatigue, fevers or chills, frequent infections, unplanned weight loss, swollen lymph nodes, easy bruising and bleeding, recurrent nosebleeds, night sweats, and bone pain or tenderness.
4. All Leukemia Patients Require Immediate Treatment
Not all leukemia patients have to undergo immediate treatment after diagnosis. Oftentimes, those diagnosed with a chronic form of leukemia, but are not exhibiting any symptoms may not be required to go for treatment straightaway. Instead, they may be put on a “watch and wait,” list, which means their leukemia is going to be monitored regularly. Should it become active, early treatment is important to prevent further spread of the cancer cells.
On the other hand, most patients with acute leukemia often begin treatment immediately following diagnoses. This is because acute forms of leukemia generally progress quickly and aggressively.
5. Leukemia is Incurable
Although there is currently no cure for leukemia, it is highly possible to treat the disease and prevent it from coming back. However, the success of the treatment plan depends on numerous factors, including age, type of leukemia, the extent of the disease’s progress, and the patient’s response to treatment.
For chronic forms of leukemia, prompt treatment can help better control and manage the symptoms. On the other hand, treatment for acute forms of leukemia can be very successful in patients who are fit enough to bear the intensive treatments.
There are many misconceptions about leukemia. To foster proper diagnosis and treatment, it is important to debunk the myths surrounding leukemia and spread facts about it instead. Misinformation can sometimes be dangerous, especially for those who have the disease.
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Paediatric Cancer – NCIS | National University Cancer Institute, Singapore. (Last updated 2020). Retrieved 16 June 2021, from https://www.ncis.com.sg/Cancer-Information/About-Cancer/Pages/Paediatric-Cancer.aspx