Leukaemia is a malignant progressive disease in which the bone marrow and other blood-forming organs produce increased numbers of immature or abnormal leucocytes. These suppress the production of normal blood cells, leading to anaemia and other symptoms.

According to the National Cancer Institute, amongst patients diagnosed with leukaemia, 94% death rate occurs in Nigeria, meaning that only one out of every 20 Nigeria with leukaemia survive.


Leukaemias are broadly classified into four main types. The primary differences between the four main types of leukaemia have to do with their rates of progression and where the cancer develops.

Chronic leukaemia cells do not mature all the way, so they are not as capable of defending against infections as normal lymphocytes. Acute leukaemia cells begin to replicate before any immune functions have developed.

  1. Acute lymphocytic leukaemia (ALL).This is the most common type of leukaemia in young children. ALL can also occur in adults.
  2. Acute myelogenous leukaemia (AML).AML is a common type of leukaemia. It occurs in children and adults. AML is the most common type of acute leukaemia in adults.
  3. Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL).With CLL, the most common chronic adult leukaemia, you may feel well for years without needing treatment.
  4. Chronic myelogenous leukaemia (CML).This type of leukaemia mainly affects adults. A person with CML may have few or no symptoms for months or years before entering a phase in which the leukaemia cells grow more quickly.

However, there are other rarer types of leukaemia which include hairy cell leukaemia, myelodysplastic syndromes and myeloproliferative disorders.


Leukaemia symptoms vary, depending on the type of leukaemia. Common leukaemia signs and symptoms include:

  1. Fever or chills
  2. Persistent fatigue, weakness
  3. Frequent or severe infections
  4. Losing weight without trying
  5. Swollen lymph nodes, enlarged liver or spleen
  6. Easy bleeding or bruising
  7. Recurrent nosebleeds
  8. Tiny red spots in your skin (petechiae)
  9. Excessive sweating, especially at night
  10. Bone pain or tenderness

Risk factors of Leukaemia

  1. Genetic predisposition: Some people appear to have a higher risk of developing leukaemia because of a fault in one or several genes.
  2. Exposure to electromagnetic energy: This might be linked to leukaemia, but there is not enough evidence to confirm this.
  3. History of cancer treatment.People who have had certain types of chemotherapy and radiation therapy for other cancers have an increased risk of developing leukaemia.
  4. Smoking: Smoking cigarettes increases the risk of acute myelogenous leukaemia.
  5. Family history of leukaemia.If members of your family have been diagnosed with leukaemia, your risk of the disease may be increased.
  6. Down syndrome: People with Down syndrome appear to have a higher risk, possibly due to certain chromosomal changes.

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REFERENCES: Mayo clinic, Cancer Institute, Cancer Treatment of America, and Nigeria Cancer Organisation.

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