About leukaemia

White blood cells are produced by the bone marrow, the soft spongy centre of bones. They then pass from the bone marrow into the blood stream and lymph system. White blood cells are involved in various functions of the immune system (the body’s defence system), which protects the body from infections. In leukaemia, some blood cells do not grow properly, but remain within the bone marrow and continue to reproduce in an uncontrolled way. These cells fill up the bone marrow and prevent it from making healthy white blood cells. This means the body is less able to fight off infections. 

The bone marrow is also able to make other types of blood cells, such as red blood cells and platelets. Problems can result from a reduction in number of these cells. For example, a lack of red blood cells leads to anaemia, which can result in breathlessness and fatigue. A lack of platelets can lead to problems with the blood-clotting system, resulting in bruising.

Leukaemia is the most common cancer in children, but cancer is generally rare in children, and leukaemia affects nine times as many adults as children.

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