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Overview

Leukemia is a cancer of the blood that begins in the bone marrow. It causes too many abnormal white blood cells to be produced and crowds the bone marrow, preventing the production of normal blood cells. There are many types of leukemia but they can be broadly divided into two categories, acute (fast-growing) and chronic (slow-growing).

Approximately 245,000 people in the United States have some form of leukemia and 45,000 new cases are diagnosed annually. The disease is more common in men than women and affects children and adults.

The Patricia Lynch Cancer Center at Holy Name has a multi-disciplinary team of experienced and skilled medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, nurses and support staff to diagnose and treat leukemia. They provide a compassionate, unified approach in creating a personal strategy for each patient's unique medical, emotional and lifestyle needs.


  • Easy bruising

  • Fever and night sweats

  • Fatigue

  • Headaches

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Abdominal pain

  • Enlarged spleen or liver

  • Loss of appetite and weight loss

  • Family history of leukemia

  • Exposure to certain chemicals - particularly benzenes and Agent Orange

  • Smoking

  • Genetic disorders

  • Prior chemotherapy or radiation

  • Down syndrome

  • Physical exam

  • Blood tests

  • Bone marrow biopsy

  • Lymph node biopsy

  • CT scan

  • MRI

  • PET scan

Treatment approaches vary, depending on the type of leukemia, the patient's age and overall health status, and whether the disease has affected the brain. In some cases, a wait-and-watch approach may be appropriate for chronic leukemia.

The most commonly used treatment is chemotherapy. At times, other treatments may be used in combination with chemotherapy, such as a biologic therapy to enhance the body's immune response to the cancer. Targeted therapies, precision medicines and radiation may also be used with chemotherapy. For some patients, stem cell transplantation will be needed.