After consulting a doctor about hot flashes and night sweats, NBA superstar Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was diagnosed with leukemia. He considered the diagnosis a death sentence, but today his health is fine. Abdul-Jabbar gets his blood checked regularly, takes his meds, and consults with his doctor to maintain good health and a minimum of disruptions to his lifestyle.
Once a fatal disease, chronic myelogenous leukemia or CML, can now be kept under control for 80 percent – 90 percent of patients with oral medications. However, not all African Americans facing this cancer prognosis are as lucky.
What is leukemia?
Leukemia is cancer of the blood cells. It starts in the bone marrow, the soft tissue inside most bones. Bone marrow is where blood cells are made.
When you are healthy, your bone marrow makes:
—White blood cells, which help your body fight infection.
—Red blood cells, which carry oxygen to all parts of your body.
—Platelets, which help your blood clot.
When you have leukemia, the bone marrow starts to make a lot of abnormal white blood cells, called leukemia cells. They don’t do the work of normal white blood cells, they grow faster than normal cells, and they don’t stop growing when they should.
Over time, leukemia cells can crowd out the normal blood cells. This can lead to serious problems such as anemia, bleeding, and infections. Leukemia cells can also spread to the lymph nodes or other organs and cause swelling or pain.
Read more about leukemia, African-Americans and bone marrow transplants at BlackDoctor.Org.
(Photo: Charley Gallay/Getty Images for NAACP Image Awards)
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