News came today that singer Etta James is terminally ill with chronic leukemia; the Riverside Press-Enterprise also reports that the 73-year-old is suffering from kidney failure and dementia.
Leukemia is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow, where blood cells are produced. When abnormal cells are created they disrupt the function of healthy cells.
The disease can be acute or chronic; in acute leukemia, common in children, immature or early blood cells multiply quickly, and immediate treatment is usually necessary. With chronic leukemia, which often strikes when people are older, there is a proliferation of mature, abnormal cells and the disease can take a long time to progress.
The two most common forms of chronic leukemia are myeloid, or myelogenous, and lymphocytic. Chronic myeloid leukemia begins inside the bone marrow, according to the National Institutes of Health, and although it's linked with an abnormal chromosome, exposure to radiation can also increase the risk of developing the disease.