Blood cancer affects the blood-forming tissues and interrupts the body’s ability to fight infection. These cancerous cells affect the bone marrow – the tissue that makes blood cells in the body. Blood cancer impacts the way blood cells operate and behave in our bodies. There are three types of blood cells in the human body:
- White blood cells – They fight infections as part of our immune system
- Red blood cells – They act as a carrier of oxygen to tissues and organs and deliver back carbon dioxide to the lungs that we breathe out.
- Platelets – They are tiny blood cells that help the body form clots to stop bleeding from an injury or a condition.
There are 3 different types of blood cancer:
These cancers cause the bone marrow and lymphatic system to make blood cells that don’t work as well as they should. They all affect different types of white blood cells, and they act in different ways. As symptoms can be similar to those of common non-cancerous conditions like Infection, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Tuberculosis, and even Trauma, diagnosis may be delayed. Any symptom persisting despite treatment for common conditions warrant further investigations to rule out blood cancer.
Rapid production of immature white blood cells in the blood and bone marrow causes a type of cancer known as leukemia. Leukemia can be either chronic or acute. If left untreated with required cancer therapy, leukemia will be fatal. There are two classifications for leukemia i.e. lymphocytic and myelogenous. In lymphocytic leukemia, there is an abnormal growth of lymphocytes (WBCs) in the bone marrow. While in myelogenous leukemia, there is an abnormal growth of myeloid cells.
The four major classifications of leukemia are:
- Acute myeloid leukemia
- Chronic myeloid leukemia
- Acute lymphoblastic leukemia
- Chronic lymphocytic leukemia
Both adults and children can be victims of leukemia. It is not only one of the commonest cancers in children but is also one of the completely curable childhood cancers. Although the symptoms of leukemia vary depending on type and stage, the following are few of the common symptoms – pallor, tiredness, headaches, fever, chills, night sweats, and other flu-like symptoms, bone pain, weight loss, paleness, pinhead-sized red spots on the skin, swollen tonsils and or lymph nodes, swollen or bleeding gums, weakness, and fatigue and enlarged liver and spleen.
Lymphoma impacts the lymphatic system resulting in unwarranted clearance of fluids from the body and the production of immune cells. There are two categories of lymphoma, they are Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Hodgkin’s lymphoma starts in the antibody-producing immune cells called B lymphocytes, or B cells. With advancements in healthcare, this condition is no more fatal and is completely curable. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a B cell lymphoma with a capability of growing quickly or slowly. Both types are divided into subtypes. The subtypes are based on where in the body cancer has started and how it behaves. People who have weak immune systems are more likely to get lymphoma. The symptoms of lymphoma include fever, weight loss, sweating, difficulty in breathing or chest pain, rash, itchy skin, weakness and fatigue and swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpits, abdomen, or groin. Children are usually affected by rapidly growing lymphoma. They are highly responsive to treatment resulting in a cure.
Plasma cells are a disease and infection-fighting antibodies produced by the white blood cells in the body. Myeloma is the cancer of plasma cells that spreads through the bone marrow. They create unhealthy cells that can’t fight infections and also that damage the bones and crowd out the healthy cells. This cancer is found in many parts of bone marrow and men aged 50-years are more likely to be affected by it. One can also get myeloma if they are obese, have close relatives with myeloma or spent a lot of time around radiation.