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Too Tired for Soccer?

Overview

When one of your friends is diagnosed with leukemia, you and your classmates go into high gear! You want to find out everything you can about her disease so you can help and support her through the illness. What exactly is leukemia? How did your friend get it? What kind of treatment is used to fight it? Is there a cure? What is the life expectancy? Will she live?


Scenario

One of your friends seemed very distracted for a few days last week, and you asked then what was wrong. She just said “nothing” and changed the subject. You knew she wasn’t telling you the truth, and that wasn’t like her at all. She missed a day of school, but that was just for her physical for the soccer team. But when you found her in the restroom crying, you knew it had to be bad.

You never expected it—how could you? When Katie finally told you, it was a shock! Katie had gone to her routine physical for soccer last week and mentioned to the doctor how tired she had been lately. The doctor noticed some bruises and said it had been a long time since she had any blood tests. She ordered some routine tests to check for anemia or iron deficiency.

This week, the doctor called and asked her parents to come to the office with Katie to discuss the results of the bloodwork. The test results weren’t good. Katie had ALL, acute lymphocytic leukemia, a form of cancer of the blood. She was leaving for treatment the next day.

The diagnosis of ALL was made primarily from Katie’s CBC (Complete Blood Count) and the blood smear that shows the number and appearance of blood cells. Shown below is a normal blood smear and Katie’s blood smear. Note the differences that pointed to her diagnosis.

Normal blood smear


This normal blood smear shows normal numbers and appearance to blood cells. Note the reddish, doughnut-shaped red blood cells and two types of white blood cells. The purplish cell with the large nucleus on the left side of the slide is a lymphocyte. The purplish cell with the multi-lobed nucleus on the right side of the slide is a neutrophil.

Blood smear of ALL (acute lymphocytic leukemia)


Note the increased numbers of lymphocytes and the more clumped appearance of the chromatin of the nucleus. The amount of cytoplasm is much smaller in these cells than in normal blood cells.


You and several of Katie’s friends decide to find out as much as you can about the kind of leukemia Katie has. You want to understand what she has, how she got it, and what she may have to go through to fight this cancer. You want to keep in touch with her during her extended hospital stay, and you want to be able to communicate with her about her illness and treatments. Your group of friends also thinks that making the effort to learn all about Katie’s illness will show her how much all of you support her.

You know there’s a lot to find out and you know it’s serious. What exactly is leukemia? What does ALL mean? How did Katie get it? What kind of treatment is used to fight it? Is there a cure? What is the life expectancy? Will Katie live?

Obviously, you need to research this condition if you’re going to help Katie. Your group wants to be the connection between Katie and everyone at school who you know will be interested in how she progresses through her treatment. They will want to know not only what Katie is going through with her treatment, but what she can most likely expect as an outcome. Will she stay cancer free after the treatment? What is the incidence of this kind of cancer? What kinds of populations or age groups does it usually hit? How does cancer develop? How do you test for different kinds of cancer? Why does most cancer usually affect older people? How do cancer cells travel throughout the body? What roles do clinical trials play in the fight against cancers?

Katie and her parents give their permissions to discuss her progress with students and teachers at the school. You ask your principal if you can make a presentation to the student body and plan a fund-raiser for Katie’s expensive treatment.

Prepare the presentation and research the answers you’ll need to take questions from the student body. Your principal alerted the local TV station and newspapers about the fund-raiser, so you might also be answering questions in interviews with both media groups.


Instructions

1. Research leukemia, especially ALL, to prepare for your presentation. You can use any kind of presentation aid available to you, including PowerPoint, slides, or transparencies. (Your teacher may have other requirements.)

2. Be prepared to answer the questions presented in this module.

3. Be prepared to answer questions presented by your classmates or teacher as they play the roles of media personnel, school administrators, or interested classmates at the school presentation.


Questions Presented in Above Paragraphs

1. What is leukemia?

2. What does ALL mean?

3. How did Katie get it?

4. What are the symptoms of ALL?

5. What kinds of treatment are used to fight ALL?

6. Is there a cure?

7. What is the life expectancy?

8. Everyone wants to know what Katie will be going through during her treatment.

9. Will she stay cancer free after the treatment?

10. What is the incidence of this kind of cancer?

11. What kinds of populations or age groups does it usually hit?

12. How do you test for different kinds of cancer?

13. How do cancer cells travel through the body?

14. What roles do clinical trials play in the fight against cancers?