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Health Report: Fairbanks Oncologist talks about leukemia for blood cancer awareness month

Published: Sep. 22, 2020 at 4:59 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - This September is Blood Cancer Awareness month, a designated time for supporters of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) to raise global awareness about their efforts in the fight against blood cancers.

We visited with Fairbanks local medical oncologist Andrew Cox at the J. Michael Carroll Cancer center. “Blood cancers aren’t the most common type of cancer. They represent about 3% of all cancer diagnoses -- and about the same percentage of cancer deaths. The blood cancers, the leukemias, they break into acute leukemia and chronic leukemia” said Dr. Cox.

These broad categories are diagnosed differently, and warrant different degrees of medical response. Chronic leukemia is often a condition unknown to the patient, and is discovered as a matter of circumstance during routine check ups.

Dr. Cox elaborated further: "The majority of blood cancers are diagnosed incidentally. That is, people are feeling fine, and then they have a lab drawn, and all of a sudden there’s something different on the C-B-C, or Complete Blood Count -- and their doctor will notice that and maybe that’ll merit further attention.”

In most cases a chronic diagnosis isn’t necessarily a medical emergency, though it is important to identify the condition so it can be managed over time. But a diagnosis of an acute leukemia is another matter entirely.

Dr. Cox detailed the matter further, saying, “With the acute leukemias, usually people know there’s something really, really wrong -- kind of like if folks are having a heart attack they know something’s really, really wrong. So they seek medical attention because they aren’t feeling well. With the acute leukemias, when we identify those, those often times qualify as medical emergencies -- and we really need to jump on top of things and move very quickly.” Said Dr. Cox.

What can Fairbanks residents do to properly mitigate the dangers of these two forms of leukemia? According to Dr. Cox, “Blood cancers are different from other diseases like breast cancer or colon cancer. In both breast and colon cancer there’s very well defined screening for patients. Blood cancers are mostly just about going to the doctor at a rate that makes sense for you and your age bracket, or seeking medical attention when something doesn’t feel right.”

The bottom line: sometimes the best course of action is a simple visit to the doctor.

Copyright 2020 KTVF. All rights reserved.

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