Noam Z. Drazin (Hematologist & Oncologist, Cedars-Sinai Medical Group) gives expert video advice on: What is "leukemia"? and more...
What is "leukemia"?
Leukaemia is a disorder or a cancer involving the bone marrow, specifically the white blood cell precursors and white blood cells that are formed as a result of these white blood cell precursors. Leukaemia can present in many different ways, meaning patients can end up under the care of physicians in many different cases. The most common is a patient who comes into a doctor's office with fatigue and the unfortunate condition of having recurrent infections. This can be as a result of having too many abnormal white blood cells in the bloodstream or having too few white blood cells in the bloodstream. In either case, white blood cells being made as a result of a cancerous diagnosis of leukaemia don't function correctly, and these white blood cells need to be treated as such.
What is a "hematologist"?
A haematologist is a sub-specialist of an internist, meaning the training that physicians go through to become a haematologist includes residency in internal medicine followed by a subspecialisation in haematology. Most training programs in the United States involve both haematology and oncology. So, haematology defined is the study or person who studies blood disorders. Oncology is the study or the treatment of cancer. They go hand in hand. We have oncologists out there treating leukaemias which are more blood-borne disease, and we have haematologists out there treating breast cancer, which is an oncologic disorder. So, most haematologists or oncologists practice both fields.
What is a "de novo" leukemia?
A de novo leukaemia is a leukaemia in which the mutation or defect that arises in the bone marrow that leads to leukaemia is something out of the blue, or idiopathic. It has nothing to do with a prior treatment. It has nothing to do with a prior disease that preceded the diagnosis of leukaemia. Most leukaemias are of the de novo type, as opposed to secondary leukaemia.