What is leukaemia?

Leukaemia is the name given to a group of cancers that develop in the bone marrow. Under normal conditions the bone marrow contains a small number of healthy immature blood cells, sometimes called blast cells. These immature blood cells mature and develop into red cells, white cells and platelets, which are eventually released into the blood stream.

Leukaemia originates in developing blood cells, which have undergone a malignant (cancerous) change. Instead of maturing properly, these cells grow and multiply in an uncontrolled fashion and interfere with normal blood cell production in the bone marrow. Most cases of leukaemia originate in developing white cells. In a small number of cases leukaemia develops in other blood-forming cells, for example in developing red cells or developing platelets.

There are several different types and subtypes of leukaemia.


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