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Glossary of Terms

Leukemia

Leukemia is one of the most serious blood disorders. Acute leukemia is the most rapidly fatal blood disease. Young forms of white cells suddenly are produced which mature abnormally. These may appear as abnormal cells in large quantities in the blood and bone marrow. Over-production of the leukemic cells crowds the marrow and platelets and red cells may not be produced. Absence of platelets produces severe bleeding which in turn may produce anemia. Part of the anemia is due to insufficient production of red cells. Acute leukemia is more common in children than in adults. Many drugs are available which help to control this malignant disease, at least for a while. Such drugs as the hormone cortisone help stop the bleeding tendency and may have a direct effect on production of leukemic cells. Other drugs have a specific effect on the marrow. These latter drugs are quite toxic and must be given only under close supervision of a patient by a hematologist.

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