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Acute Leukaemia

Acute Leukaemia - What it is

Acute leukemia is a type of cancer of the blood and bone marrow cells. "Acute" indicates that the leukemia develops and advances quickly and requires immediate medical attention. In patients with acute leukemia the bone marrow produces an excessive amount of abnormal immature white blood cells which do not function normally. Patient may have low amounts of normal blood cells. There are 2 main types of acute leukemia, acute myeloid leukemia and acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.

Acute Leukaemia - Symptoms

​Symptoms may differ between individuals, depending on the type of leukemia
Some symptoms are due to the increasing number of abnormal leukemia cells whereas others are caused by the lack of normal blood cells.

  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Fevers and chills
  • Bony and joint pains
  • Easy bruising of the skin or bleeding
  • Swollen lymph nodes (glands)
  • Loss of weight and appetite

Acute Leukaemia - How to prevent?

​At present there is no routine screening test for leukemia.
Individuals should seek medical attention if they have any of the above symptoms.

Currently there are also no proven preventive strategies for leukemias. However, adopting a healthy lifestyle may help to prevent disease. This includes:

  • Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables
  • Quitting or not starting smoking
  • Limiting alcohol consumption
  • Regular exercise

Acute Leukaemia - Causes and Risk Factors

Most people who develop acute leukemia have no known risk factors and the leukemia develop spontaneously. There are however some factors which may increase the risk of developing certain types of leukemia.

These are:

  • Previous cancer treatment – chemotherapy and radiation therapy
  • Genetic disorders where there are abnormalities in the genes which contribute to the development of leukemia
  • Chemical such as benzene and radiation exposure

Acute Leukaemia - Diagnosis

​The diagnosis of acute leukemia is usually confirmed after performing a bone marrow test. The sample extracted during the procedure is used to confirm the type of leukemia and define certain characteristics which may guide treatment options.

Acute Leukaemia - Treatments

​The treatment of acute leukemia depends on the type and characteristics of the disease.

Some treatment options includes:

  • Chemotherapy, which are drugs that directly kill leukemia cells. This may be used in combination with targeted and immunotherapy and can take the form of injection and oral therapy.
  • Haematopoietic stem cell transplantation may be appropriate for selected patients after initial chemotherapy. 

  • Cellular therapy may be an option for some patients where germ-fighting T cells are re-engineered to fight cancer.

Supportive therapy in the form of blood transfusion, infection prevention and early treatment and management of side effects of treatment is also very important.

In SGH, we have a comprehensive inpatient and outpatient chemotherapy service and offer various options for acute leukemia treatment.

Acute Leukaemia - Preparing for surgery

Acute Leukaemia - Post-surgery care

Acute Leukaemia - Other Information

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