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Leukemia Testing May Guide Early Intervention

Category: Leukemia and WBC disorders

Many chronic illnesses lead to fatigue and a general lethargy. The blood disease leukemia is an extreme case, due to the nature of the illness. Because leukemia results in an excess of abnormal blood cells, muscles are not well-oxygenated and people suffering from the disease fatigue quickly. Aches and pains are common, as is shortness of breath with almost any level of physical activity.

However, a new study shows that getting leukemia patients to exercise, despite the limitations imposed by the disease, may help combat the tiredness and fatigue, improve depression and generally increase their quality of life.

"We found that the patients experienced significant reduction in total fatigue and depression scores, as well as improved cardiorespiratory endurance and maintenance of muscular endurance," said Dr Claudio Battaglini, assistant professor of exercise and sport science and UNC Lineberger member.

Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Department of Exercise and Sport Science and the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center examined patients undergoing treatment for leukemia and gave them a special exercise regimen geared specifically to their level of fitness and current symptoms.

The patients were given aerobic and resistance exercises, core exercises and light stretches for their 3-5 week hospital stay and then instructions on an exercise program for their home recovery period.
In addition to a baseline test of their fitness and endurance, blood tests were administered to look for cytokine inflammation markers.

Because one of the main side-effects of the most common forms of leukemia treatment is to confine a patient to a hospital room for several weeks, the researchers say the proof that they can be given an exercise treatment and that it shows physical and psychological benefit is helpful for improving recovery.

The researchers are continuing their studies to determine if exercise improves outcomes over time when compared to normal treatment, and whether a sustained exercise regimen is beneficial in mitigating the symptoms of the disease.

Leukemia comes in two basic forms, each with a chronic and an acute manifestation. One form affects lymphocytes, which are part of the immune system, and the other affects red or white blood cells and platelets.

While exercise may show some benefits in combating the disease, especially in its chronic form, the fatigue from the disease and side effects of many common treatments can be too much for even the most athletic patients to overcome.

Kenechi Udeze, a defensive end for the Minnesota Vikings, was forced to retire earlier this month after being unable to get back to NFL form after his leukemia treatments. Diagnosed in 2008, he took a year off to get treatment and then fought his way back to training camp this year, only to finally decide he would not be able to compete on the professional level.

Udeze thanked the team for giving him a shot and his fans for supporting him in a prepared statement.

Leukemia is diagnosed through the use of blood tests that measure the number of blood cells in the body. As the disease progresses, the numbers grow higher. This excess interferes with the body's normal blood cells accomplishing their roles in maintaining health and circulation.

According to the leukemia and lymphoma society, there will be almost 45,000 new cases of leukemia in the U.S. in 2009. The disease will result in the deaths of almost 22,000 people in the country this year.

Treatments for leukemia have improved drastically over the years, especially when the disease can be caught early through blood tests. The five year survival rate has quadrupled over the last five decades.ADNFCR-2248-ID-19302635-ADNFCR

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