Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc has leukemia.
In a joint statement released Wednesday, the New Brunswick MP and former Government House Leader said he was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia in April 2017 after a routine exam revealed unusual white blood cell counts and that he will begin undergoing treatment over the holidays.
READ MORE: What is chronic lymphocytic leukemia?
“[Chronic lymphocytic leukemia] is a chronic disease in the sense that it must be closely monitored and sometimes treated, but can be controlled,” said Dr. Nicholas Finn, a hematologist-oncologist at the Dr. Georges-L. Dumont University Hospital Centre in New Brunswick, in the statement.
Finn noted it is one of the most common types of leukemia in adults and said that “due to the state of the condition, the minister has the flexibility to schedule treatments in a way that will have minimal impact on his work.”
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The treatments are scheduled to wrap up next spring and Finn said he expects LeBlanc will be able to pause treatment for years “with only routine followups.”
LeBlanc said he is grateful for the support and attention he has received from the doctors and his decision to start treatment could not have come at a better time.
The House of Commons is set to rise next week until the end of January for the annual holiday recess.
“Canadians face health challenges much more difficult than this,” LeBlanc said. “I am confident that this will not impact the work I will continue to do for Canadians.”
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According to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada, chronic lymphocytic leukemia is a type of blood cancer that begins in bone marrow.
It develops from a mutation in the stem cells of bone marrow and is generally less severe than acute leukemia, which can be difficult to treat and often progresses rapidly.
The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada notes there are often “no obvious reasons” why people develop the disease and that it is not tied to outside risk factors.
“Early in the course of the disease, [chronic lymphocytic leukemia] often has little effect on a person’s well-being,” the society explains on its website. “Some people with [chronic lymphocytic leukemia] do not have any symptoms. The disease may be suspected because of abnormal results from blood tests that were ordered either as part of an annual physical or a medical examination for an unrelated condition.”
When symptoms do occur with the disease, they typically include tiredness and feeling short of breath during regular activities, loss of weight due to decreased appetite, enlarged lymph nodes and spleen, and infections of the skin, lungs, kidneys and other parts of the body as the body’s ability to fight infection decreases.
The range of possible treatments include watching and waiting, chemotherapy and drug therapy, radiation, removal of the spleen and stem cell transplants.
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