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  • Monocytic Leukemia

    Monocytic leukemia is a form of leukemia classified by the excessive amounts of monocytes (white blood cells that play an important role in the function of the body’s immune system) in the bone marrow.

    This disease is characterized as either “acute” (AML) or “chronic” (CML). AML is one of the most commonly diagnosed childhood cancers.

    CML is a very rare condition that rarely shows any symptoms—in many cases it is only detected during a routine blood test. CML does not affect the function of the body’s blood cells; rather, the body produces too many cells and the patient can be very vulnerable to infection.

    Signs & Symptoms

    Symptoms can vary from patient to patient, but commonly include:

    • Bruising easily
    • Fatigue
    • Fever
    • Irregular menstrual cycles
    • Poor skin color
    • Diarrhea
    • Shortness of breath

    Since the disease affects the body’s infection-fighting cells, the patient may also be more susceptible to colds and other illnesses that their weakened immune system cannot fight off.

    Besides the above symptoms, CML patients are also known to get night sweats.

    Diagnosis & Treatment

    A patient who is thought to have AML will be given a physical exam first. Their physician will look for any swelling in the lymph nodes in the groin, armpits, or abdomen. Afterward, a complete blood count (CBC) will be done by a hematologist. This test will determine the levels of white and red blood cells in the bone marrow.

    A bone marrow biopsy, in which a sample of the spongy tissue is removed and examined under a microscope, will then give the physician a definitive diagnosis. This will also determine if the condition is AML or CML.

    Immediate treatment for AML is especially critical. Treatment is given in two phases. Phase one lasts for roughly five weeks, in which time the patient is admitted to the hospital and given regular doses of induction chemotherapy to eradicate all of the leukemia cells.

    After that course of treatment, the patient then begins consolidation chemotherapy, which are regular doses of powerful medications, but the patient does not need to be admitted to the hospital. In advanced cases, the patient may require a bone marrow transplant, in which the affected cells are removed and healthy infection-fighting cells are injected into the bone marrow.

    Outlook

    Even with aggressive treatment, AML carries a fairly poor prognosis, with an average survival rate of 35-60 percent.