Nora Ephron tragically passed away this Tuesday from pneumonia at the age of 71. Ephron had been battling valiantly against an aggressive form of leukemia for a few years now, but unfortunately the disease proved to be too much in the end. The critically acclaimed writer/director, who was nominated for three Academy Awards, had been diagnosed with leukemia back in 2006. However, Ephron did not initially go public with her diagnosis.
Ephron’s oncologist, Dr. Gail Roboz, reported that she had died from acute myeloid leukemia at the New York Presbyterian Hospital. This initial report was made by CBS News. However, a conflicting report was made by the International Business Times, as often happens when notable people are diagnosed with cancer. The Times apparently heard from a Washington Post columnist that Ephron had died due to the blood disorder myelodysplasia , a condition which she had also been diagnosed with years before. Both of these are similar conditions, but it raises questions as to why there is any discrepancy over what she suffered from.
To learn more about this type of cancer, leukemia is a form of cancer which occurs in the blood-forming tissues. Some of the better documented cases of leukemia have developed in the patient’s bone marrow. When someone has leukemia, their bone marrow stops producing blood cells properly. Over time, the number of abnormal cells slowly grows and eventually they overcome the healthy cells. According to the National Cancer Institute, 2012 could see 47,150 new cases diagnosed and 23,540 deaths due to this cancer.
Additionally, it is important to realize that there are four main categories of leukemia: two chronic forms and two acute forms. The classification depends upon the type of cell that is affected by the disease. Leukemia can affect either the lymphoid cells or the myeloid cells. The acute form of leukemia is quite aggressive, and acute leukemia patients (this is the reported form of leukemia that Ephron suffered from) will require immediate treatment after they have received their diagnosis. The chronic form of leukemia progresses more slowly and can often go undiagnosed for a long period of time.
There are a number of risk factors for leukemia, which include genetic diseases, blood disorders, exposure to chemicals or radiation, and smoking. Current research has shown that having undergone prior treatment for cancer can also increase your risk, as well as the genetic disposition some people have due to their family history.
The final report states that Ephron died specifically from pneumonia as a complication of leukemia. If you aren’t aware, pneumonia can occur when the patient’s lungs become infected by viruses or bacteria. According to the National Institute of Health, these can actually spread from some of the other areas of the body to the lungs, or you can even inhale them in through various fluids or food.
Pneumonia can be particularly deadly for young children, senior citizens, people with weak immune systems, or individuals who are battling some other medical complication. If you have pneumonia, you should be very wary of the potential risk of other diseases like emphysema, respiratory failure, or sepsis (this can cause organ failure).