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Know the difference between acute and chronic leukemia

Cancer By Aparna Mir , Onlymyhealth editorial team / Apr 13, 2012
Know the difference between acute and chronic leukemia

A major difference between chronic and acute leukemia is that both target different blood cells. Apart from this there are many other differences between the two forms of leukemia.

leukemia is a cancer of bone that affects the bone marrow. There are two forms of leukemia, namely acute leukemia and chronic leukemia. Both of them have different modes of action and rate of progression.


acute leukemia

There are a few prominent differences between acute leukemia and chronic leukemia. Acute leukemia occurs due to overproduction of blast cells (immature blood cells) in blood and bone marrow. Chronic leukemia occurs due to hyperactivity of white blood cells (WBC), resulting in a malignant formation.

Acute leukemia is common in children as it affects the young cells while chronic leukemia affects mature cells, so found mostly in adults. The rate of progression of chronic leukemia is much slower than acute leukemia.

In acute leukemia the symptoms appear immediately, therefore diagnosis is very easy. In case of chronic leukemia, symptoms appear very late. Generally, symptoms appear after the diagnosis. The symptoms of acute leukemia include abdominal pain, pain in the joints, weakness, excessive bleeding and bruising. The symptoms of chronic leukemia include headache, dizziness and abdominal discomfort due to deposition of excess WBC.


chronic leukemia


Acute leukemia does not affect spleen. In chronic leukemia, spleen enlargement occurs due to abnormal accumulation of white blood cells.  Acute leukemia does not cause any brain infection, but chronic leukemia affects brain cells as well. This causes headache, confusion and dizziness. Acute leukemia does not hamper heart and lungs functioning, but in chronic leukemia functions of heart and lungs do get affected.

Antibody formation and functioning does not get influenced in acute leukemia. On the contrary, chronic leukemia affects the body’s immune system significantly. It slows down the production of antibodies called gamma globulin. This condition is called hypogammaglobulinemia. Due to this, the body losses its diseases fighting ability and gets more prone to infections and illness.

Acute leukemia occurs within a short period of a few weeks, but chronic leukemia occurs over a period of months or even years. Acute leukemia is more fatal than chronic leukemia. This is because acute leukemia spreads faster than chronic leukemia.

Acute leukemia needs urgent treatment as it has an aggressive mode of action. The mode of progression of chronic leukemia is very slow, so it should be monitored properly before medication. Complex chemotherapies and bone marrow transplantation are used to treat acute leukemia. Chronic leukemia can be treated by interferon and chemotherapy. Acute leukemia can occur suddenly, but chronic leukemia takes time to appear. It remains in dormant stages for years before turning into a severe form of cancer.



Image Source: Getty

Read more articles on  Understand Leukemia


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