If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with blood cancer, you may be searching for answers—read on to get an overview of this disease.
What Is Blood Cancer?
Blood cancer refers to any cancer that starts in the blood or bone marrow, including myeloid leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma. It can spread to other areas of the body, particularly to the lymph nodes, spleen, liver, and kidneys.
Blood cancer is a disease caused by the growth of abnormal cells in blood-forming organs. This type of cancer can affect any part of the body, but it most often starts in the bone marrow and spleen. There are many different types of blood cancers, some rarer than others. The most common types are leukemias and lymphomas.
The medical term for blood cancer is Hematologic cancer. Such cancers are hematological malignancies, which affect blood cells in the bone marrow.
The Different Types of Blood Cancer
There are several types of cancer, some of which are commonly diagnosed in patients and others that are rarer. These include, but are not limited to:
Lymphoma in the blood is a form of cancer that affects the lymph nodes, which are found throughout your body and produce certain cells. Lymphocytes, or white blood cells, can turn cancerous and grow uncontrollably in these lymph nodes. If they enter your bloodstream, they may spread around your whole body and affect different organs.
Leukemia blood cancer starts in the bone marrow and affects red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. It’s more common than other forms, but not as aggressive as some other types. In leukemic patients, their immune system has been compromised, and they can’t produce enough healthy red and white blood cells (red cells carry oxygen to the rest of your body while white cells fight off infection).
Types of Leukemia
There are several rare blood cancer types including:
- T-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia (TCLL)
- Myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS)
- Multiple myeloma (MM)
- Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML)
- Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)
- Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML)
- Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (most often affects children and teens under the age of 20, is another less common form)
Causes and Risk Factors
There are many risk factors for cancerous diseases such as:
- Being exposed to chemicals or radiation due to chemotherapy
- Having an inherited genetic mutation that causes cancers
- Having chronic B-cell infections
The symptoms of blood cancer vary depending on where it’s located and what kind of cancer it is, but common signs of blood cancer include:
- Unexplained weight loss or gain
- Frequent infections
- Loss of appetite
- Joint pain
- Fatigue or weakness
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck or armpits
Blood Cancer Prognosis
Blood cancers are classified into two categories, depending on which type of blood cells are affected. Lymphoma in the blood is a cancer of the lymphatic system and leukemia is a cancer of the white blood cells.
Both types of cancers can be diagnosed by a combination of physical exams, imaging tests, and biopsies. If you have any questions or concerns about your health, it’s important to see your doctor right away.
Before symptoms appear, a regular blood test by the doctor may identify persistent leukemia. If this occurs, or if you exhibit symptoms or signs that point to leukemia, you could have one of the following diagnostic tests:
A Physical Exam
Your doctor will examine you for physical indicators of leukemia, including anemia-related pale skin, swollen lymph nodes, and enlarged liver and spleen.
A Blood Test
Your doctor can examine a sample of your blood to see if you have abnormally high or low amounts of platelets, red blood cells, or white blood cells, which may indicate leukemia. Although not all forms of leukemia cause the leukemia cells to circulate in the blood, a blood test can nevertheless detect the presence of leukemia cells.
A Bone Marrow Test
Leukemia cells can occasionally remain in the bone marrow. A procedure to take a sample of bone marrow from your hipbone may be advised by your doctor. Use of a lengthy, thin needle is used to extract the bone marrow. The sample is delivered to a lab for leukemia cell detection. Your treatment options may be based on traits that specialized tests of your leukemia cells may reveal.
The type of cancer that is diagnosed depends on the type and severity. Treatment options vary depending on how advanced the cancer is. Treatment options include:
- Radiation therapy
- Bone marrow transplants
Prevention of Cancer
Though there isn’t one definitive answer to this question, there are precautions you can take.
In general, doctors recommend that people reduce their risk by staying away from tobacco smoke and other sources of exposure (occupational exposure or environmental) to radiation or chemicals such as benzene.
Smoking cigarettes increases your risk for all forms of cancer; however, those with a family history of leukemia may want to consider quitting smoking altogether because they have an increased chance of developing the disease.
If you or a loved one is diagnosed with blood cancer, the good news is that many types are now very curable since blood cancer treatments have significantly improved over the past few decades.
Living With Blood Cancer
In general, blood cancer has a five-year survival rate of 69.1%. Accordingly, a person with blood cancer has almost a 70% chance of living five years after their diagnosis compared to a person of the same age without cancer.
The survival rates of various blood cancers vary, nevertheless.
Over 85% of patients with follicular lymphoma, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, and chronic myeloid leukemia survive five years after diagnosis. However, the five-year survival rate for myeloma, mantle cell lymphoma, and acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is less than 50%.
It is crucial to realize that these are averages based on the experiences of a sizable population of individuals, each of whom survives for a varied amount of time. Numerous variables will affect each person’s chances of success.
Even two individuals with the same disease can experience very different results. It is important to follow your doctor’s advice regarding your prognosis rather than depending on the general survival rates for your specific type of blood cancer.
If you require medical care for yourself or a loved one who resides in the US, contact All American Hospice now.