Simply put, Leukemia is any cancer of the blood cells. Leukemia generally begins as a cancer in the bone marrow (the soft tissue housed inside of bones, which is responsible for making the body’s blood cells).
In healthy individuals, bone marrow makes white blood cells (which fight infections), red blood cells (which move oxygen throughout the body), and platelets (for clotting). But for victims of Leukemia, this production is out of sync. The victim’s marrow begins to make abnormal white blood cells (Leukemia cells), in large quantities. These cells do not fight infection, and grow faster and larger than healthy white blood cells. Eventually, these abnormal cells overwhelm and “crowd out” healthy blood cells. Patients then suffer anemia, bleeding, and mild to serious infections. Also, like other cancers, Leukemia can spread, most commonly to lymph nodes, but also to other organs and tissues throughout the body.
The causes of Leukemia vary. Some Leukemias can be inherited, while others are acquired. In addition, a patient can be born susceptible to Leukemia, but have his disease triggered by environmental factors such as toxic exposure. There are many types of blood disorders and, indeed, many types of blood cancer. But all types of Leukemia can be caused by toxic exposures, at home or at work. If you have Leukemia, particularly if you are or were employed in manufacturing or industry, you should investigate whether exposure to a toxic product caused Leukemia.
Those whose Leukemia was caused by toxins may have a cause of action for personal injury or wrongful death. For instance, auto workers exposed to benzene may have a claim against their employer or a products liability claim against the manufacturer or distributor of the benzene-based solvent to which they were exposed. Those who developed Leukemia from contaminated drinking water may have a claim against the company whose facilities spilled or leaked the chemicals which infiltrated the water supply.
Types of Leukemia
There are four major types of Leukemia. These types result from two primary divisions, which then occur in combination. These two divisions are:
- Acute Leukemia or chronic Leukemia. Acute forms of the disease advance quickly, making patients sick almost immediately. Chronic leukemia, however, advances slowly. Many patients do not experience symptoms for years after developing the disease.
- Lymphocytic Leukemia or myelogenous Leukemia. Lymphocytic (also called lymphoblastic) Leukemia affects one specific type of cells, lymphocytes (found in the bone marrow). Myelogenous Leukemia, by contrasts, affects another specific white blood cell type, myelocytes.
Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL)
CLL is always acquired, not inherited. It originates from injury to the DNA of a singleresults from an acquired (not inherited) injury to the DNA of a single cell, a lymphocyte, in the bone marrow. This cell then grows and multiplies, and begins to produce lymphocytes in the blood. About four people in every 100,000 suffer from CLL in the United States. The Leukemia known as “hairy cell” Leukemia is a type of CLL characterized by severe susceptibility to infection.
Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL)
ALL, like CLL, involves abnormal lymphocytes, but it progresses rapidly, rather than slowly. ALL can occur in adults or children, but ALL makes up about 90% of childhood Leukemias, and only around 20% of adult Leukemias. ALL is commonly caused by solvents, glues, paints, petroleum, or rubber.
Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML)
CML can be acquired or inherited. It originates from an abnormal hematopoietic stem cell, which causes overgrowth of the granulocytic cell line, and too many granulocytes and blast cells (granulocytoic precursors) in the blood. CML is very rare, although slightly more common in those over the age of 80. Studies on CML are limited, but indicate that exposure to toxins can cause CML.
Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML)
AML is extremely aggressive. Of all the Leukemia types, AML is linked most closely with chemical exposures, especially benzene and other solvents – experts believe that benzene exposure causes AML. Therefore, if you have developed Leukemia and were exposed to benzene, it is critical to contact an experienced personal injury attorney to ensure your rights are protected.
For a free consultation with one of our serious injury and wrongful death lawyers at Passen & Powell, call us at (312) 527-4500.