Cancers are classified acute or chronic based on their rate of progression. Acute leukaemia is a rapidly progressing disease, while chronic leukaemia progresses slowly over months to years.
Treatment usually begins quickly after diagnosis for acute leukaemia given its rapid nature. Chronic leukaemia may not require treatment for a long time after it is diagnosed.
Healthy bone marrow produces blast cells, or immature white blood cells, which then develop into mature white cells, red cells and platelets.
When you have acute leukaemia, diseased bone marrow produces an excessive number of abnormal blast cells, called leukaemic cells, which build up in the bone marrow and interfere with the production of normal blood cells.
Common forms of acute leukaemia:
- Acute myeloid leukaemia (AML)
- Acute lymphocytic leukaemia (ALL)
In chronic leukaemia there is a build-up of mature but abnormal white blood cells that became malignant when developing from a blast cell.
Common forms of chronic leukaemia are:
- Chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML)
- Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL)