When I was first diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (A.L.L.) I was absolutely clueless to both the illness and what to expect from the side effects. Because of this I began learning about my illness and decided to sitting down to discuss what A.L.L. is and what my journey has looked like since being diagnosed.
What is Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia?
Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia also known as A.L.L. develops when there is a mutation in the white blood cells, which then causes the white blood cells to produce rapidly and prematurely.
The most common symptoms of ALL are: Frequent infections, fever, bruising, bleeding that is hard to stop, flat dark red-skin spots, pain in the bones or joints, lumps in the neck, underarm, stomach or groin, Pain or fulness below ribs, weakness, fatigue, paleness, loss of appetite, shortness of breath.
According to the American Cancer Society ALL is not a very common form of cancer and the risk of actually getting ALL is about 1 in 1000.
About 5,930 new cases of ALL (3,280 in males and 2,650 in females)
About 1,500 deaths from ALL (850 in males and 650 in females)
ALL is a more common cancer found in children ages 3 to 5. Children younger than 5 years old have the highest probability of getting ALL and the risk slowly declines until the mid-20s. It slowly begins to rise again after age 50. Overall, about 4 of every 10 cases of ALL are in adults.
Most cases of ALL occur in children; however, most deaths from ALL occur in adults.
How is A.L.L. treated?
Induction (remission induction) – During induction patients go through a strict regimen of chemotherapy treatments in order for the patient to go into remission. Remission means that the leukemia cells are NO LONGER found in the bone marrow samples extracted during the bone marrow biopsy.
I wad diagnosed on August 10th, started treatments on August 15th, went into remission on November 16th, finished the chemotherapy treatments on and finally rang the bell on January 28th.
Consolidation – Is generally the second chemo given to sustain remission and sometimes done prior to transplant.
Maintenance – After consolidation, the patient is generally put on a maintenance chemotherapy program. In some cases, it’s a combination of drugs such as vincristine and prednisone.
Is A.L.L. genetic?
Translocations are the most common type of chromosome change that can lead to leukemia. A translocation means that DNA from one chromosome breaks off and becomes attached to a different chromosome.
The most common translocation in ALL found in adults is known as the Philadelphia chromosome.
In my case, I do believe my diagnosis was genetic due to the fact that I had the Philadelphia chromosome.
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