What it is A disease characterized by abnormal white-blood-cell production in blood-forming tissues.
How common Nearly 30,000 Americans are diagnosed with leukemia each year, according to the NCI. Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), which accounts for nearly 4,000 cases a year, is the most common type found in young adults and children.
Red flags Symptoms — which can include fever, fatigue, drenching night sweats, bleeding, numerous bruises and weight loss — can mimic a number of ailments. But if symptoms persist you should see your doctor.
Risk reduction There's no way to reduce your risk, but seeking prompt treatment increases your chances of survival.
Treatment options If a blood test and bone or bone-marrow biopsy has confirmed leukemia, consider going to a nationally recognized center and seeing a specialist for treatment. (To find either, go to the ACS Web site at cancer.org, or log on to the American Medical Association's Physician Select site at ama-assn.org/aps/amahg.htm.) Traditionally, intense chemotherapy is given for several months to treat ALL, followed by lower dosages for one to two years.
Survival rate The overall five-year survival rate has more than tripled in the past 40 years, from 14 to 46 percent, according to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, thanks to improvements in treatment modalities. For ALL, the five-year survival rate is higher than 60 percent.