Leukemia is a type of cancer in which the body produces large numbers of abnormal (usually white) blood cells. About 28,500 new cases of leukemia are diagnosed each year. There are several types of leukemia, grouped as either acute (the diseases progresses rapidly) or chronic (the diseases progresses slowly). The most common leukemias are:
Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), which comprises 90% of all leukemias in children (although it also occurs in adults)
Acute myelocytic leukemia (AML), which mostly occurs in adults
Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), which mostly strikes adults over age 55
Chronic myelocytic leukemia (CML), which mostly occurs in adults.

Signs and Symptoms:

Signs and symptoms of leukemia include:

Abnormal paleness
Weight loss
Shortness of breath
Easily bruising
Repeated infections
Bone pain
Abdominal pain.

What Causes It?:

Most causes of leukemia are not known. However, the disease has been linked to exposure to large amounts of high-energy radiation (from nuclear bombs), occupational exposure to the chemical benzene, viral infections, and chemicals from cigarettes.

Who's Most At Risk?:

Leukemia is linked to the following risk factors:
Increasing age
Genetic diseases, such as Fanconi's anemia or Down syndrome
Acquired diseases, such as Hodgkin's disease
First-degree relative with leukemia
Excessive exposure to ionizing radiation
Chemical exposure (benzene)
Certain drugs
Chromosomal abnormalities
Cigarette smoking.

What to Expect at Your Provider's Office:

If you or your child has symptoms associated with leukemia, see your health care provider. Your health care provider can make a diagnosis and help you determine which treatment or combination of therapies will work best.

Your health care provider will do a physical examination, checking for swelling in the liver, the spleen, and the lymph nodes, and will order certain laboratory tests. The bone marrow is examined for leukemia cells or to determine the type of leukemia. A lumbar puncture ("spinal tap") checks for leukemia cells in the fluid around the brain and spinal cord. Chest x-rays can reveal signs of the disease in the chest.

Treatment Options:

Some leukemias can be prevented by avoiding exposure to benzene, nicotine, or radiation.

Treatment Plan:

Leukemia is an extremely complex disease. Treatment depends on the type of leukemia, certain features of the leukemic cells, the extent of the disease, and whether the leukemia has been treated before. Whenever possible, a patient with leukemia should be treated at a medical center that specializes in this disease.

Drug Therapies:

Some of the drug therapies used to treat leukemia include the following:
Radiation therapy -- the use of high energy rays to kill cancer cells and prevent them from growing
Chemotherapy -- the use of drugs to kill cancer cells
Bone marrow transplantation -- a procedure in which cancerous bone marrow is destroyed with high doses of anticancer drugs or radiation, and is then replaced with healthy bone marrow.
Biological therapy -- stimulates or restores ability of the body's immune system to fight infection and disease. May also help lessen side effects caused by other treatments

Surgical and Other Procedures:

Surgeries may include:

Lumbar puncture
Bone marrow transplant
Splenectomy (removal of the spleen).

Complementary and Alternative Therapies:

A comprehensive treatment plan for leukemia may include a range of complementary and alternative therapies. Individuals should educate themselves and keep all medical providers fully informed regarding any and all therapies they are using, both prescribed drugs and dietary supplements.

Nutrition and Supplements:

Following these nutritional tips may help reduce symptoms:
Try to eliminate potential food allergens, including dairy (milk, cheese, butter), wheat (gluten), corn, soy, preservatives, and food additives. Your health care provider may want to test for food sensitivities.
Eat antioxidant foods, including fruits (such as blueberries, cherries, and tomatoes) and vegetables (such as kale, spinach, and bell peppers).
Avoid refined foods, such as white breads, pastas, and sugar.
Eat fewer red meats and more lean meats, cold-water fish, tofu (soy, if no allergy), or beans for protein.
Use healthy oils in cooking, such as olive oil or vegetable oil.
Reduce or eliminate trans fatty acids, found in such commercially baked goods as cookies, crackers, cakes, French fries, onion rings, donuts, processed foods, and margarine.
Avoid coffee and other stimulants, alcohol, and tobacco.
Drink 6 - 8 glasses of filtered water daily.
Exercise lightly, if possible, 5 days a week.

You may address nutritional deficiencies with the following supplements:
A multivitamin daily, containing the antioxidant vitamins A, C, E, the B-complex vitamins and trace minerals, such as magnesium, calcium, zinc, and selenium.
Probiotic supplement (containing Lactobacillus acidophilus), 5 - 10 billion CFUs (colony forming units) a day, for maintenance of gastrointestinal and immune health. Some probiotic supplements may need refrigeration. Check the label carefully.
Omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish oil, 1 - 2 capsules or 1 tbsp. of oil one to two times daily, to help decrease inflammation. Fish oils may increase bleeding in sensitive individuals, such as those taking blood thinning mediations (including aspirin).
Vitamin C, 500 - 1,000 mg one to two times daily, as an antioxidant. Higher dosages may be necessary. Talk to your health care provider.
L-theanine, 200 mg one to three times daily, for nervous system support.


Herbs are generally a safe way to strengthen and tone the body's systems. As with any therapy, you should work with your health care provider to get your problem diagnosed before starting any treatment.

You may use herbs as dried extracts (capsules, powders, teas), glycerites (glycerine extracts), or tinctures (alcohol extracts). Unless otherwise indicated, you should make teas with 1 tsp. herb per cup of hot water. Steep covered 5 - 10 minutes for leaf or flowers, and 10 - 20 minutes for roots. Drink 2 - 4 cups per day. You may use tinctures alone or in combination as noted.
Green tea (Camellia sinensis) standardized extract, 250 - 500 mg daily, for antioxidant, anticancer and immune effects. Use caffeine-free products. You may also prepare teas from the leaf of this herb.
Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum) standardized extract, 150 - 300 mg two to three times daily, for anticancer and immune effects. You may also take a tincture of this mushroom extract, 30 - 60 drops two to three times a day.
Olive leaf (Olea europaea) standardized extract, 250 - 500 mg one to three times daily, for anticancer and immune effects.
Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) seed standardized extract, 80 - 160 mg two to three times daily, for detoxification support.


Although few studies have examined the effectiveness of specific homeopathic therapies, professional homeopaths may consider the following remedies for the treatment of gastritis symptoms (such as nausea and vomiting) based on their knowledge and experience. Before prescribing a remedy, homeopaths take into account your constitutional type -- your physical, emotional, and psychological makeup. An experienced homeopath assesses all of these factors when determining the most appropriate treatment for you individually.

Homeopathy may help reduce symptoms and strengthen overall constitution and may help decrease the side effects of chemotherapy.
Radium bromatum is specific for radiation poisoning, especially followed by arthritic complaints. Acute dose is three to five pellets of 12X to 30C every 1 - 4 hours until symptoms are relieved.


Acupuncture may alleviate symptoms. Acupuncture may help to enhance immune function, normalize digestion, and address disease conditions. For many patients and physicians, acupuncture has become one of the most widely used alternative interventions in cancer therapy support.

Prognosis/Possible Complications:

Repeated infections complicate most cases of leukemia. Kidney failure or impaired function and a decreasing number of neutrophils (a type of white blood cell) are also common complications. Treatments for leukemia can have serious side effects.

The prognosis for people with leukemia varies by the type of leukemia. ALL patients have the best prognosis, with a 35 - 45% 5-year survival rate and a 40% long-term survival rate.

Following Up:

Patients with leukemia undergo extensive follow-up care, including daily exams to check for infections and bleeding, weekly bone marrow biopsies after chemotherapy has begun, post-remission chemotherapy, treatment for central nervous system conditions, and monitoring of urinary function.

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