The white cells are part of the body’s immune system, and
there are several sub-groups of white cells that have different
sorts of roles in recognising and dealing with ‘invaders’
such as bacteria and viruses as well as other types of foreign protein.
All of the blood cells originate in the bone marrow
and leukaemia (blood cancer) is a disease where the bone marrow
produces large numbers of abnormal white cells. This means that
the normal marrow is pushed into smaller and smaller areas. This
results in fewer normal cells being produced and gives rise to some
of the symptoms.
There are many types of leukaemia, each of which is
classified according to the exact cell type affected by the disease.
Chronic leukaemia is a slowly progressive form of leukaemia
and tends to involve more mature cell types. It may not need treatment
immediately, but if treatment is required it is usually chemotherapy,
given in the form of tablets.
Bone marrow transplantation may be considered for those
patients who are less than 45 years of age and who have an aggressive
form of the disease.
The cause of leukaemia is not known.