Leukemia

Leukemia is a type of cancer that starts in blood-forming tissue, such as the bone marrow, and causes large numbers of abnormal white blood cells to be produced and enter the bloodstream. Unlike normal blood cells, leukemia cells don’t die when they become old or damaged, so they can build up and crowd out normal blood cells. The resulting low level of normal blood cells can make it harder for the body to get oxygen to tissue, control bleeding, and fight infections. Leukemia cells also can spread to other organs, such as the lymph nodes, spleen, and brain. There is no cure for leukemia, but it may be treated with chemotherapy, targeted drug therapy, radiation, or stem cell transplant.

Acute leukemia usually develops quickly and tends to cause fatigue, easy bruising, and frequent infections. Chronic leukemia usually develops slowly, with the leukemia cells working almost as well as normal white blood cells. Patients may not feel sick at first, but if not treated the leukemia cells may later crowd out normal blood cells. Leukemias also are named for the type of white blood cell that is affected. Leukemia that starts in myeloid cells is called myeloid, myelogenous, or myeloblasticleukemia. Leukemia that starts in lymphoid cells is called lymphoid, lymphoblastic, or lymphocyticleukemia. The four most common types of leukemia are acute myeloid leukemia (AML), acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL).

Why UAB

The UAB Medicine Leukemia Clinic utilizes state-of-the-art technology to screen for and treat leukemia. Our physicians are nationally recognized for their expertise and innovation in the field, and our research team is dedicated to improving treatments and, ultimately, finding a cure for these diseases. Because we are part of the UAB Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center’s nationally recognized research programs, our patients may be eligible for medicines and treatments not available at other institutions in the region. Our Comprehensive Cancer Center is nationally recognized as one of the best in the country and is a leader in bone marrow transplantation. UAB Medicine's Bone Marrow Transplant Program is the only one in the state and has achieved a high level of success, even with difficult diagnoses.

A diagnosis of cancer can be stressful for patients, so we provide a nurse navigator to help organize your visit. The program streamlines your introduction to UAB Medicine by arranging for your medical records, setting your appointments, and guiding you through the process. This allows your treatment team to deliver more efficient care.

Images and Videos

PHYSICIANS

Related Conditions

Listed below are some conditions that may be related to or share some similarities with the condition addressed on this page.

Related Treatments

Depending on your case and your physician’s assessment, your condition may be treated using one or more various procedures. Some of those procedures are listed below for your convenience. Please note that this is not a comprehensive list and may vary depending on your specific diagnosis.

Clinical Trials

UAB is an active participant in research and clinical trials for the diagnosis and treatment of leukemia. We encourage you to speak to your physician about research and clinical trial options and browse the link below for more information.

View Clinical Trials