The nature of cancer is that it starts in one organ or tissue of the body and then starts spreading from there. However, when this cancer is in the blood or bone marrow, it’s already there in the entire body. Since blood contains 3 different types of cells, the disease also has different types. Let’s dive deeper into it and understand it properly.
Blood cancers influence how blood cells function. Usually, it begins from the bone marrow, which is responsible for creating blood cells. When the stem cells in the bone marrow mature, they turn into white blood cells, red blood cells, or platelets.
Usually, in any type of blood cancer, either of the above blood cells start growing abnormally. Not only is this abnormal growth out of our control, but it also hampers the growth of normal and healthy cells. Thus, it also interrupts the most basic functions of your blood cells, such as fighting infection or preventing dangerous bleeding.
Types of Blood Cancer
The main types of blood cancer and bone marrow cancer are Leukemia, Lymphoma, and Myeloma. They even have sub types:
It is a blood cancer that arises in the blood and bone marrow. When the body creates excessive abnormal white blood cells, it affects the bone marrow’s capability to make platelets and red blood cells.
In this cancer, there is abnormal growth of lymphocytes, which are basically white blood cells responsible for your body’s immunity.
The difference between non-Hodgkin and Hodgkin lymphoma is the existence of a specific type of abnormal lymphocyte. It is known as the Reed-Sternberg cell.
This type of cancer commences in the blood’s plasma cells. They are another type of white blood cells that create antibodies.
Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL)
It may be a malignant transformation and proliferation of lymphoid progenitor cells within the bone marrow, blood, and extramedullary sites. Although eightieth of ALL happens in children, it represents a devastating sickness once it occurs in adults.
Symptoms of Blood Cancer
Some normal bone marrow and blood cancer symptoms include:
- Fever with chills
- Constant fatigue and weakness
- Loss of appetite
- Unexplained weight loss
- Night sweats
- Joint/Bone pain
- Abdominal pain
- Shortness of breath
- Recurring infections
- Rashes and irritation in the skin
- Swelling of lymph nodes in the neck & armpits
Causes of Blood Cancer
Changes in our DNA usually lead to any type of blood cancer. These DNA changes are usually beyond our control and reasoning. It also isn’t possible to say what really leads to these DNA changes which in turn cause blood cancer. However, it may be possible to say what kind of changes are to possibly lead to cancer.
Other risk factors vary depending on the particular type of blood cancer. Following are the ones for Acute Myeloid Leukemia:
- More your age, higher the chances of getting infected
- Males are more prone to getting it than females
- Being exposed to industrial chemicals like benzene
- Habit or addiction of smoking
- Have been treated for cancer previously
- Exposed to too much radiation
- Have been treated for blood cancer before
Following are the risk factors for developing Hodgkin lymphoma:
- Have been infected by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)
- Males are more prone
- History of Hodgkin lymphoma
- Weak immunity
Following are the risk factors for developing non-Hodgkin lymphoma:
- Exposed to industrial chemicals, herbicides, and pesticides
- History of chemotherapy
- Exposed to radiation
- Weak immune system
- History of diseases like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus
You’re more likely to develop multiple myeloma if:
- Your age is higher
- You’re male
- You are an African-American
- You’re overweight or obese
Side Effects of Blood Cancer
Side effects are the redundant effects of blood cancer treatment. Some people experience these effects due to cancer, even if they aren’t having treatment.
Infection Risk and Neutropenia
Blood cancer causes weakens the immune system drastically. Thus, your risk of catching any kind of infection increases. Both history of cancer and its treatment can lead to weaker immunity. This is because the number of neutrophils in your blood reduce significantly.
It is called Neutropenia or being neutropenic. If you develop a disease while you’re neutropenic, you will need treatment and may need to go to the hospital.
Sickness and Vomiting
Certain blood cancers and blood cancer treatments can make you feel sick (nausea) and, at times, make you sick (vomit).
Mucositis (sore mouth or gut)
Mucositis is a usual side effect of some blood cancer treatments. It affects your digestive system, which includes your mouth and intestines.
How is Blood Cancer Diagnosed?
Usually, any kind of diagnosis begins with a basic physical health check-up. Based on your medical history and any signs of infection of bruises that your body might be reflecting, your doctor makes the next move.
Several types of tests and procedures can be used to identify blood cancer. The doctor specifies that based on the type of blood cancer you show symptoms for. Your support team can recommend that they test and evaluate all results with you to make a diagnosis.
This is a lab test where the pathologist collects your cell samples. If you are suspected to have lymphoma, the doctor needs to see a sample of your lymph tissue or a whole lymph node.
In order to diagnose most types of blood cancer, it is important to examine the bone marrow. To do so, doctors take a small sample of bone marrow along with some blood and bone from the hipbone or breastbone. It is used to check for abnormal cells or genetic changes.
Some blood cancers benefit more from imaging scans than most others. Although the scan can detect an enlarged lymph node, a frequent indication of lymphoma, it is rarely used to identify leukemia, a blood malignancy that creates no apparent malignancies. Moreover, if cancer has spread to other body places, scans can help.
It consists of a CT scan, an ultrasound, an MRI scan, an X-ray, and a Positron Emission Tomography scan (PET scan).
The cell count of numerous blood products, like platelets, red blood cells, and white blood cells, is displayed in a Complete Blood Count (CBC).
Clinical chemistry testing examines the concentration of different chemicals in the blood. For example, unusual protein levels can reveal information about your illness. Doctors must monitor your calcium levels in the blood if multiple myeloma is indicated. Lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) is an enzyme that can be tested for lymphoma.
Treatment and Therapy for Blood Cancer
The form of cancer, your age, how rapidly cancer has spread, and other aspects influence how you are treated for blood and bone marrow cancer. The following are some of the most prevalent leukemia medications for blood cancer, multiple myeloma, and lymphoma:
Stem Cell Transplant
A stem cell transplant provides the body with normal hematopoietic stem cells. Stem cells could be extracted from blood, umbilical cord blood, and bone marrow.
Anticancer medicines are used in chemotherapy to destroy and inhibit the proliferation of cancer cells in the body. Numerous medications are often given simultaneously in blood cancer chemotherapy on a set schedule. This therapy can also be used before a stem cell transplant.
Radiotherapy can either target and kill the cancer cells or alleviate discomfort. The patient can also get it before a stem cell transplant.
Targeted medication therapies identify particular defects in cancer cells. Targeted medication therapies can increase cancer risk cells to die by inhibiting these aberrations. Your blood tumor cells will be analyzed to see if you can benefit from targeted therapy.
The immune system is used in immunotherapy to fight cancer. Because cancer cells create proteins that help cells fade from immune system cells, the body’s illness response might not always tackle them—immunotherapy functions by disrupting the body’s normal operations.
Engineering Immune Cells to Fight against Leukemia
T Cellular therapy is a specialist treatment that extracts microbe T cells in the body, modifies them to treat cancer, and then re-injects them back into the body. CAR-T cell treatment might be a possibility for some kinds of leukemia.
Clinical studies are used to study new treatments for cancer and new ways to use current ones. Although a clinical study allows you or your kid to try the most recent cancer treatment, the benefits and risks of the medication are uncertain. Visit your physician about the advantages and disadvantages of clinical testing.
Measuring Responses to Treatment
The consequences or outputs of any medication employed in blood cancer treatment are determined by clinical response. The tests below accomplish this:
- Complete your response
- Incomplete response
- Chronic illness
- Disease progression
- Clinical recurrence
- Return to complete response
The prognosis for blood cancers depends on what type and many other factors like overall health, age, and therapeutic response.
As per the SEER (Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results) research of the National Cancer Institute, 65 cent is a 5-year average life span with leukemia. In the last 50 years, this figure has risen considerably. Additional rates include:
While these are just numbers, in the end, every individual case of blood cancer is different. The sooner you manage to detect it, the better it may be. Unlike other cancers, it has no stages because it is already there in your whole body when you have cancer in the blood. So, always make sure you consult the best doctor from the moment you observe the symptoms.