Fulminant leukemia: what is the cause, how it manifests itself, what can be done

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A severe sore throat and a throbbing headache: these are the symptoms described in his latest post on IG by Michele Merlo, the 28-year-old singer from Marostica, in the province of Vicenza, who died in the night between 6 and 7 June due to of a cerebral hemorrhage caused by a fulminant leukemia, the name by which Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia is most commonly defined.

A disease that, in the case of the young Merlo, manifested itself in all its gravity in the space of a few days, unfortunately without giving him a chance.

But how is Fulminant Leukemia diagnosed, what are the most common symptoms and above all: what can be done? We talked about it with Matteo Della Porta, Associate Professor of Hematology at the Department of Biomedical Sciences, Humanitas University of Rozzano, Milan.

«The first thing to point out is that however, it is a very rare form of leukemia: among all, Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia represents 1 or 2% of cases ”, explains Della Porta. “Its characteristic consists in the fact that leukemia cells are able to release substances into the blood that cause a very serious condition, defined disseminated intravascular coagulation. This coagulation process makes it easy for acute hemorrhages to form in vital organs just like the brain, which does not happen in the other leukemic forms “.

Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia therefore consists of a very critical initial phase which corresponds to the onset of the disease and its immediate manifestation in the most acute form, within a few days, with the risk of sudden death within the first week. «The paradox is that it is by far the most treatable form of leukemia. If you pass the initial stage, the chance of survival exceeds 95%. Not only that: the disease can be cured simply with targeted drugs, without the use of chemotherapy “, adds the haematologist.

The most common symptoms? «They understand gum bleeding, fatigue, fever. These are apparently common manifestations, but if they are not associated with a precise cause it is important to contact your doctor immediately: A classic blood test is enough to diagnose fulminant leukemia».

Typical of the adult, acute promyelocytic leukemia is not found in children or adolescents and is not included in diseases due to a genetic predisposition. «At the moment the triggering factors of this acute form are not known, therefore prevention cannot be done. Simply, it is essential to pay attention to your symptoms, alerting the doctor immediately if they persist, ”suggests Dalla Porta.

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