Understanding your risk
Like other cancers, your risk depends on many variables, including:
- Contracting HPV (Human papillomavirus)
- Family history
- Lifestyle behaviors (e.g. smoking, diet and exercise)
- Overall health
- Age (most common in those over the age of 55, or for children under 15)
At Optum, our oncology team offers comprehensive cancer risk assessments and hereditary cancer genetics evaluation programs to help you identify your risk. Start our online hereditary assessment now ›
Leukemia is a disease that shows no obvious symptoms, especially early on. In most cases, patients who are diagnosed with leukemia find indicators during physical exams or routine blood testing. Some patients who do exhibit symptoms often have:
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Pale skin
- Swollen gums
- Chronic fatigue
Diagnosing leukemia is a multi-step process because there are several types of the disease. If your doctors suspects you have leukemia, they will order the following tests:
- Blood test: The blood will be tested for an abnormal white cell count, which can be an indication of leukemia.
- Biopsy: During a biopsy, bone marrow from the pelvic bone is removed and tested to confirm that leukemia has developed. The type of leukemia is also determined.
Types of leukemia
Leukemia is categorized as acute or chronic. Acute leukemia is fast growing and tends to get worse quickly. Chronic leukemia develops at a much slower rate.
The treatment options for leukemia depend on the stage of the disease. Some of the most common treatment options include:
- Chemotherapy: chemicals administered in pill or IV form to kill and slow the growth of cancer cells.
- Radiation therapy: high-powered beams of energy, such as X-rays and protons that are used to kill and slow the growth of cancer cells.
- Targeted therapy: drugs that attack specific abnormalities within cancer cells or by directing your immune system to kill cancer cells.
Medical care and help
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