The Stages of Leukemia

Your physician will assign a stage or phase to your leukemia. The stage or phase is important in determining likelihood of remission or cure.

How Leukemia Spreads

Leukemia spreads throughout your body in three ways:

  • Spreads through blood and travels through your veins and capillaries to other parts of your body
  • Invades surrounding healthy tissue
  • Invades your lymph system and travels to other parts of your body

To determine if your leukemia has spread, your physician may order one or more of the following tests:

  • CT scan
  • Chest X-ray
  • MRI
  • PET scan
  • Bone scan

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Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL)

ALL has three classifications:

  • Untreated
  • In remission
  • Recurrent (returned)

Your ALL is considered in remission if:

  • Your complete blood count is normal.
  • You fewer than 5 percent of the cells in your bone marrow are leukemia cells.
  • You have no signs of leukemia in your spinal cord or elsewhere.

Recurrent ALL is leukemia that has returned after treatment. It may come back in your blood or in your bone marrow.

Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)

There are three classifications to AML:

  • Untreated
  • In remission
  • Recurrent (returned)

Your AML is considered in remission if:

  • Your complete blood count is normal.
  • You fewer than 5 percent of the cells in your bone marrow are leukemia cells.
  • You have no signs of leukemia in your spinal cord or elsewhere.

Recurrent ALL is leukemia that has returned after treatment. It may come back in your blood or in your bone marrow.

Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL)

CLL is described with a system of Roman numerals to detail the progression of cancer. Your physician will assign a stage according to the specific involvement of your CLL, which helps guide your treatment.

Stage 0          Too many lymphocytes in blood, but no symptoms; indolent

Stage I         Too many lymphocytes in blood; lymph nodes enlarged

Stage II         Too many lymphocytes in blood; liver or spleen is enlarged; lymph nodes may be enlarged

Stage III         Too many lymphocytes in blood and too few red blood cells; liver, spleen, or lymph nodes may be enlarged

Stage IV         Too many lymphocytes in blood and too few platelets; may be too few red blood cells; liver or spleen, and lymph nodes may be enlarged

Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML)

CML has three phases:

  • Chronic — fewer than 10 percent of the cells in your blood and bone marrow are leukemia cells.
  • Accelerated—10 percent to 19 percent of the cells in your blood and bone marrow are leukemia cells.
  • Blastic—20 percent or more of the cells in your blood and bone marrow are leukemia cells.

Symptoms of Blastic Crisis

  • Tiredness
  • Fever
  • Enlarged spleen

The leukemia cells crowd out your healthy white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets, resulting in:

  • Anemia
  • Infections
  • Bleeding
  • Bone pain

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