Blood Cancer (hematologic cancer) begins in bone marrow, where the body produces blood. Cancer occurs because abnormal blood cells begin growing out of control. This process interrupts normal blood cell function to produce new blood cells and protect the body against infection. While the condition tends to begin in the bone marrow, it can often spread out to red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.
Bone marrow produces blood stem cells to form new blood cells. These new developing cells are often referred to as “blast” cells that remain inside the bone marrow until the cell has completely developed into red blood cells, white blood cells, or platelets. Cancerous action tends to cause a mutation in the development of blood cells that lead to leukemia, lymphoma, or multiple myeloma conditions.
Nearly one in ten cases of new cancer in America every year involves some form of blood cancer that affects more than 1 million individuals nationwide. Many patients now live with blood cancer in remission. Children tend to experience the highest numbers of leukemia. Additionally, nearly a third of all childhood cancers involve the blood. Statistics estimated that more than 58,000 individuals were expected to die from blood cancer in the United States in 2017. However, the survival rates for blood cancer patients have significantly improved over the last two decades.
Unfortunately, there is no effective screening test to identify the early stages of blood cancer. As a result, many individuals are unaware that something is wrong with their blood until they experience devastating symptoms. Numerous clinical trials in recent years have proven to be effective using the latest advancements in the prevention of cancer, early detection, diagnosis, and treatment.
Forms of Blood Cancer
The three forms of blood cancer involve leukemia, lymphoma (both Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma), and myeloma. More than one-half of all blood cancers involve lymphomas that impact the body’s lymphatic system.
- Leukemia – This form of blood cancer develops in the bone marrow and blood when the body has created excessive abnormal white cells. The process interferes with the ability of the bone marrow to produce platelets and red blood cells.
- Hodgkin Lymphoma – This form of cancer is created in the lymphatic system, specifically in lymphocyte cells. This disease is characterized by the abnormal Reed-Sternberg lymphocyte cell.
- Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma – The development of this blood cancer occurs in the lymphatic system in lymphocyte cells, a form of white blood cell created to fight off the body’s infections. Look here for information on Roundup lawsuits involving non-hodkins lymphoma.
- Multiple Myeloma – This form of cancer involves the blood plasma cells, which is a form of white blood cells created in the bone marrow.
Other varying conditions are related to hematologic cancers that are similar because of the growth of the blood cells. Some of these other cancers tend to develop more slowly and can be treated. Not all of these conditions need immediate treatment to stop the progress of cancerous action. Lesser-known blood cancers with fewer cases involve:
- Essential thrombocythemia
- Myelodysplastic syndromes
Doctors often classify blood cancers in two distinct categories, including chronic and acute. Chronic blood cancers are described as an indolent (slow-growing) cancer that takes extensive time to spread throughout the body. Acute blood cancers describe a fast-growing (aggressive) cancer that develops and spreads quickly.
Childhood Blood Cancer
Unfortunately, many blood cancers affect children. Typically, the signs, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment are radically varying between age groups. Child leukemia is nearly always acute (quick onset), but different forms of the disease affect different cells. Doctors can classify leukemia in young children such as childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia and childhood acute myeloid leukemia.
Sadly, there are no known causes of the development of childhood leukemia. However, doctors know that there is a significant change that occurs in the genetic formation of cells in the child’s bone marrow that might be the root of some cases. Childhood leukemia can be devastating because it affects the immune system, especially in the thymus and spleen. A diminished immune system damages the child’s ability to fight off devastating infections caused by viruses and bacteria.
Blood Cancer Causes
Medical science has yet to determine the exact cause of blood cancer. However, some of the onset factors associated with the development of leukemia, lymphoma, or multiple myeloma include:
- Genetics (family history)
- Weakened immune system
- Certain specific infections
Blood Cancer Symptoms
Every form of blood cancer differs in the type of cells that are affected, the pace of development, and how far and wide cancer had spread throughout the body. Many of the common symptoms associated with blood cancer involve:
- Night sweats
- Chills and fevers
- Loss of appetite, loss of weight
- Weakness and persistent fatigue
- Shortness of breath
- Abdominal discomfort
- Joint/bone pain
- Skin rash or itchy skin
- Frequent infections
- Swollen lymph nodes in the groin, underarms, or neck
Diagnosing Blood Cancer
The highly skilled pathologists and physicians in your location likely have access to diagnostic tools that can quickly identify blood diseases. Medical oncologists work together with transplant specialists to provide effective treatment. Numerous support services are available to patients and family members concerning blood cancer, to alleviate many of the physical and emotional burdens associated with undergoing effective cancer treatments and during the recovery process.
Treating Blood Cancer
Doctors have numerous options to treat blood cancer. These options are often dependent on the patient’s age, type of cancer, and how fast cancer has progressed. The doctor will also assess the areas where cancer has spread and other underlying factors that could affect the outcome of the treatment. Some of these treatment options involve:
- Chemotherapy – The doctor may recommend chemotherapy using anticancer medications. These drugs help to interfere with the growth of cancer cells and stop their production in the body. Chemotherapy can be most effective when the oncologists provide several medications together in a proven regimen. Sometimes, chemotherapy is used before a stem cell transplant.
- Stem Cell Transplant – The oncologist may infuse stem cell transplants into healthy stem cells in the patient’s body collected from various sources, including umbilical cord blood, circulating blood, and bone marrow.
- Radiation Therapy – Using radiation is an effective solution for destroying cancer cells or to alleviate discomfort or pain. Radiation therapy is also effective when used concomitantly with stem cell transplants.
Many clinical trials and extensive research have helped increase the survival rate of adults and children suffering from leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma blood cancers. Many new discoveries have created a positive impact on all patients suffering from debilitating blood diseases.