Acute forms of leukemia, such as ALL (acute lymphocytic leukemia), come on swiftly and have clear, discernable symptoms, so they are relatively easy to diagnose. On the other hand, chronic forms of this disease, such as CHRONIC MYELOID LEUKEMIA, gradually overcome the patient and may have only vague, general symptoms, such as fatigue. Therefore, they are harder to diagnose and sometimes are not properly identified until the leukemia is in an advanced stage.
Chronic Myeloid Leukemia has at least one other major distinguishing factor. Long term exposure to certain toxic substances, most notably benzene, is one of the only known causes. Therefore, since there is no family history of leukemia, this disease is often the last thing on a doctor’s mind when a patient comes in with cancer-like symptoms yet no obvious risk factors.
Most forms of cancer start in the organs and then spread to the bones and blood. But leukemia starts in the bones and then spreads to the organs.
Essentially, leukemia blood cells do not mature at the same rate as regular blood cells. Immature cells divide too quickly, and overly-mature cells that should die remain alive too long. It’s like if you went to the grocery store and bought a package of meat with half the cuts missing or that had already passed its expiration date. But in the body, these mutated cells crowd out healthy ones, causing serious illness.
If there is no genetic predisposition to leukemia, there must be a foreign substance in the body that’s strong enough to permanently change cells. Benzene is such a powerful toxin that even small amounts of its fumes are sufficient to alter cell DNA, and this mutation leads to Chronic Myeloid Leukemia in many cases. In effect, because of the presence of a gene called BCR-ABL, white blood cells in bone marrow become leukemia cells.
Cancer cells grow and divide quickly (the technical term is cell-cycle-specific), so they spread from the marrow into the blood, where they often arrive in other vital organs, most notably the spleen.
Because they are so aggressive, cancer therapy is incredibly expensive. In fact, many patients may pay up to $36,000 per month for chemotherapy drugs alone, an amount that has increased nearly tenfold in just the last decade. Obviously, this figure does not include hospitalization costs, which can be several thousand dollars per day, along with other related medical expenses, such as travel to see specialists or surgery to remove cancerous tumors in the spleen and elsewhere.
Making matters worse, health insurance companies routinely deny claims which they feel are based on negligence.
There are other issues as well, such as the diagnostic problems mentioned above. Early stage cancer can be treated with rather conservative drugs and therapies, but once the cancer spreads, doctors have much more limited options. In fact, if the cancer is caught too late, doctors can often do little other than make the patient as comfortable as possible. The good news is that life expectancy has increased significantly in recent years, from as little as three years in the 1990s to as much as several decades today.
Your Damage Claim
Benzene is a powerful industrial chemical that’s widely used in oil refineries and a number of other commercial applications as well, such as synthetic fibers, rubber lubricants, dyes, plastics, resins, certain drugs, detergents, and pesticides. People who work at these facilities are exposed to benzene fumes almost every day.
In addition to direct exposure cases, there are also ambient exposure cases. The victims are those who live or work near these kinds of facilities. Typically, very young people, very old people, and unborn children are the most likely ambient exposure victims. Bear in mind that Chronic Myeloid Leukemia may be present in the blood for many decades before doctors properly identify it.
Direct exposure victims need not establish fault to obtain compensation for their medical bills and other economic losses. And, if ambient exposure victims can establish a connection between their Chronic Myeloid Leukemia or other disease and benzene use at a certain facility, these victims are entitled to substantial additional compensation, perhaps even including punitive damages.
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Benzene-induced Chronic Myeloid Leukemia comes on slowly and causes serious injury. To learn more about Chronic Myeloid Leukemia and options click here.