Blood cancers affect the formation and function of blood cells. Most of the time, the cancer begins in the bone marrow where blood cells are created. Normally, stem cells in the bone marrow develop into three kinds of blood cells: platelets, red blood cells, and white blood cells. In most blood cancers, the uncontrolled growth of an abnormal type of blood cell interferes with the development of normal blood cells. The cancerous cells interfere with the blood's ability to perform its functions, such as preventing serious bleeding or battling infections in the body.
There are several types of leukemia: acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), acute myelogenous leukemia (AML), chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), myelodysplastic syndromes, hairy cell leukemia, and myeloproliferative disorders. ALL is the most common type in children, while AML is most common in adults. Experts believe most leukemia cases are a result of a mutation in the DNA of blood cells. The mutated cells grow and divide more rapidly than normal cells and continue to survive when normal cells would typically die. Over time, these mutated cells outnumber healthy cells in the bone marrow, leading to the symptoms of leukemia.
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