Leukemia comes from a Greek word which means “White blood”, it is often referred to as cancer of the blood.
All blood cells grow old and die when they are no longer needed. The life–span of blood cells varies widely – red blood cells live for about 4 months after they leave the marrow, granulocytes (neutrophils) live for a few hours and platelets survive for a few days.
To maintain the proper numbers of each type of blood cell it is important that cells die off and are cleared from the blood at the end of their useful lifespan.
In leukemia, normal control mechanisms break down and the marrow starts to produce large numbers of abnormal cells. This disrupts the normal production of blood cells leading to anemia and low platelet counts. The abnormal cells cannot fight infections like normal white blood cells.