Healthy Living

What to Avoid if You Have Leukemia

What to Avoid if You Have Leukemia

Key Takeaways

  • The most common complication a person with leukemia experiences is infection.
  • Excess bleeding should also be avoided for patients with leukemia. 
  • It is important to monitor the patient’s complete blood count while undergoing leukemia treatment.

Leukemia, known as the cancer of the blood, can progress either acutely, which the is rapid and sudden onset of the disease, or chronically, which is a slow manifestation of symptoms over a period of time. There are several complications of leukemia that may arise which can hinder the patient’s positive reaction to the treatments, which could further worsen the disease and can also cause a relapse after a remission has been achieved. Hence, it is important to have a clear understanding on the things that should be avoided or be cautious about when you have leukemia or someone you know has or had leukemia.

It is difficult to change the fact that you have leukemia, but this can be a time to change your life in new ways. The patients can start by making choices to stay as healthy as possible and avoid spreading the cancer further in the body.

 

Unhealthy lifestyle

The treatment of leukemia changes the sense of taste for individuals. With the advancement of the disease, side effects like nausea, weight loss, inability to eat, excessive weight gain, and everything can be frustrating and problematic. Not eating healthier, a sedentary lifestyle, not cutting down on alcohol or tobacco, keeping your stress levels high, and other such things would just add to the discomfort of the patient. If you are suffering from major symptoms of leukemia and undertaking a sedentary lifestyle, then it is going to diminish your muscle strength, fitness, and endurance considerably. Keeping yourself active will condition the heart, and, along with healthy food, it will let the patient have proper weight, lower the depression, decrease the anxiety, reduce the fatigue, let the patient feel energized, and make the muscles much stronger. It is highly recommended to eat foods rich in antioxidants and proteins that have free-range organic qualities. These include cherries, tomatoes, spinach, bell peppers, kale, blueberries, etc. Avoiding refined foods such as sugar, pasta, baked goods, and white breads will work wonders for the health. Avoiding the unhealthy influences in your life will strengthen your immune system and help you fight the condition in a better way. Furthermore, the patients should focus on making following changes in their lifestyle:

  1. Battle leukemia by cooking and eating healthy
  2. Eat organic fruits and vegetables everyday
  3. Steam vegetables and consume whole grains
  4. Make proteins your best friends
  5. Choose healthy bacteria like yogurt, sour dough breads, milk with probiotics, etc
  6. Eat 4-6 times a day

 

Infection

The most common complication a person with leukemia experiences is infection. A person with leukemia has a higher risk of developing infections because of their impaired immune system. As the disease primarily affects the white blood cells, the body suffers from an inability to produce antibodies to fight off infections. Also, with chemotherapy, the drug therapy does not just target the cancer cells but can also kill off the normal cells, further depleting the person’s ability to fight infections. Hence, it is important for a person with leukemia to avoid any sources or exposure to any kind of infection as common as people who are sneezing or coughing. It is recommend that during the course of the disease and as part of the leukemia therapy that the person is given antibiotic therapy for bacterial and fungal infection treatment as early as possible. It is also recommended to provide regular injections of immunoglobulin or gamma globulin, especially for those with recurring infections, to restore or improve the person’s immune system. Other basic guidelines to avoid infection include frequent hand washing with soap and clean water or the use of an antibacterial cleanser, especially before handling or preparing food, as well as prior to eating. Avoid eating raw food or buying food from places which you are not completely sure how they have handled or prepared the cooked food. Also, cook your food well, as it is recommended to use a thermometer to check if the meat has been cooked or boiled within the required temperature to ensure that microorganisms have been killed. 

Bleeding

Excess bleeding should also be avoided for patients with leukemia. Although leukemia generally affects the white blood cells, its progression will also have a direct effect on the platelet count. Hence, the body’s clotting mechanism will become impaired, leading to easy bruising and bleeding. This can also manifest in frequent nosebleeds, bleeding gums, and the presence of tiny red dots caused by bleeding into the skin, which is called petechiae. Some ways to prevent bleeding include limiting physical or strenuous activities that may lead to injury, even if it is just minor, as it may eventually lead to bruising and bleeding, use of soft bristled toothbrushes, and avoiding prolonged exposure to direct sunlight and to extreme heat and humidity, which can cause nosebleeds. Also, avoid eating dark foods, as it may mask the color of the stool. In the case the person is already bleeding internally, it may go undetected due to the dark color of the stool.

 

Anemia

Another complication of leukemia that may arise as the disease progresses or as a side effect of chemotherapy is anemia, which is a below-normal level of red blood cells. The presence of anemia associated with leukemia may not be avoided, but it should be diagnosed and treated while at its onset. Certain types of leukemia would develop an antibody that would go against the body’s normal healthy blood cells, typically targeting the red blood cells, causing a condition called autoimmune hemolytic anemia, which would further deplete the already low level of red blood cells. In less common cases, these antibodies would go against the platelets, which will bring about the condition called immune thrombocytopenia, which will significantly decrease the body’s platelet count. The most common drug treatments of choice for these two conditions are prednisone, Rituxan, and cyclosporine.  In some instances, blood transfusions are also necessary to restore or improve the person’s red blood cells and/or platelet levels. It is important to monitor the patient’s complete blood count while undergoing leukemia treatment to either avoid development of anemia or detect the early development of anemia and manage it immediately to prevent further complications and progression of the disease.

Final Thoughts

Leukemia comes with many risks, but some of these risks can be avoided through proper care and maintenance.