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A type of cancer affecting the white blood cells. These cells are part of your body’s immune system, which defends against infection

About leukaemia

Leukaemia is a type of cancer that affects your white blood cells, causing your body to create more white blood cells than it needs. There are four main types of leukaemia which are categorised by whether they behave as an acute illness (acute leukaemia) or more slowly (chronic) growing.

At HCA UK we work with world renowned haematologists who are experts in treating leukaemia. We are able to offer same-day appointments and, if necessary, direct admissions.

Types of leukaemia

Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia

Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) is a rare type of cancer. It is caused when signals that stop the body making too many white blood cells are ignored. The cells go on dividing, but do not mature into normal lymphocytes.

ALL causes too many immature blood cells (lymphoblasts) to form; which overcrowd the bone marrow. As a consequence, there is not enough room for the healthy white and red cells or the platelets needed for your body to function normally.

Acute myeloid leukaemia

Acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) is a rare cancer that causes white blood cells to develop abnormally. Less commonly, AML occurs when the body creates too many red blood cells or platelets.


These immature leukaemia cells travel in the blood and circulate around the body. Because they do not work properly, this can lead to an increased risk of infection.

Chronic lymphoblastic leukaemia

Chronic lymphoblastic leukaemia (CLL) is the most common form of leukaemia, it usually develops slowly and is categorised as ‘chronic’.

They may also build up and overcrowd the bone marrow, preventing the bone marrow from creating enough healthy white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets.

Chronic myeloid leukaemia

Chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML) is a cancer that affects the white blood cells (granulocytes). CML usually develops slowly, and is categorised as ‘chronic’.

In CML, abnormal granulocytes do not form properly and overcrowd the bone marrow, affecting its ability to create healthy cells. These abnormal granulocytes can also collect in the spleen, causing it to become enlarged.

Need to know

  • Symptoms icon plus

    Symptoms of leukaemia may include:

    • tiredness
    • pale skin
    • bleeding and bruising
    • frequent infections
    • swollen glands
    • limb pains
    • fever

    Many of these symptoms can be caused by the increased number of abnormal white blood cells and a decrease in the amount of normal blood cells in the bloodstream and bone marrow. Your consultant will discuss your symptoms with you.

  • Diagnosis icon plus

    We offer a number of investigations and tests to confirm a diagnosis of leukaemia, including:

    • bone marrow biopsy
    • blood tests

    To confirm what type of leukaemia you have, a bone marrow sample will usually need to be taken, commonly from the hip bone. This test is conducted under local anaesthetic and takes around ten minutes. You may experience some discomfort but it will pass quickly.

  • Treatment options icon plus

    At HCA Healthcare UK we provide a comprehensive treatment pathway, including JACIE international accredited stem cell and bone marrow transplant services. Your treatment plan will be tailored to your individual medical requirements. Your consultant will talk through your diagnosis and treatment options with you in detail to help you make an informed decision about your care.

    We can provide:

    • Chemotherapy
    • JACIE international accredited stem cell transplant
    • Radiotherapy
    • Clinical trials
    • Immunotherapy

    At HCA Healthcare UK you will be looked after by a multidisciplinary team, including expert consultants, clinical nurse specialists and supportive therapists including psychologists who can help you with your emotional well-being.

Our consultants

We're proud to work with leading experts across a range of medical fields, whose skills are matched by their integrity and compassion.
Consultant in theatres

Our facilities

From complex surgery to straightforward procedures, we provide exceptional care across our network of hospitals, outpatient centres and specialist clinics.

Contact our experienced cancer team

Any questions? We're happy to advise you or help you to book an appointment with a cancer specialist consultant.

Call us on 020 3553 9477
This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
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