Blood has a vital role in the functioning of our body and it accounts for at least 8% of the total body weight. It’s entrusted with the task of supplying vital nutrients, oxygen, antibodies and hormones to different organs in the body. Blood is composed of equal amount of plasma (alight yellow colored liquid that transports waste, nutrients and cells) and blood cells (White blood cells, Red blood cells and Platelets).
Blood cancer is an abnormal condition in which there’s an excessive production of WBC or white blood cells. Around the world, blood cancer (including lymphoma, leukemia and myeloma) accounts for at least one tenth of all the cancer cases. Men have a higher risk of developing blood cancer compared to their female counterparts. In children, leukemia accounts for at least 25% of the total blood cancer cases.
Common symptoms of blood cancer include weight loss, fatigue, inflammation of lymph nodes and night sweats. However, there’re several instances where the cancer doesn’t show any symptoms during the early stage and progress slowly over the years.
It’s imperative to carry out an accurate diagnosis of the type of blood cancer before beginning its treatment because there’re more than 100 types of recognized blood cancers. Often treatment begins after a medical board comprising pathologists, and clinicians (specializing in blood cancers) meet and decide on the course of treatment.
Let’s delve deeper into the subject of blood cancer, symptoms and treatments.
Blood Cancer – An overview
Cancer is nothing but a malfunctioning of the cellular growth rate and behavior. Every day old cells in our body die and are replaced by new ones. However, blood cancer results from an overproduction of white blood cells within the bone marrow.
Types of Blood Cancer
Broadly speaking, there are 3 different types of blood cancer:
Leukemia – In this type of cancer, the cells turn into white blood cells thus preventing the body from fighting infections. Leukemia too is of four different types – acute, chronic, myeloid and lymphocytic. The occurrence of leukemia is common among children under 15 years of age.
Lymphoma – This type of cancer affects the lymphatic system, which is a vital part of our immune system. It actually affects the lymph nodes along with the white blood cells known as lymphocytes. One of the most common type of lymphoma is known as Hodgkin’s disease and others are categorized under the non- Hodgkin lymphoma. It’s in fact the most common type of blood cancer among adults and accounts for more than 50% of the blood cancer cases.
Myeloma – This type of cancer affects the plasma cells, which produces antibodies for protection against infection. Thus, Myeloma destroys the immune system of the body making it vulnerable to infection.
Blood Cancer Risk Factors
No clear results are available to point to specific risk factors associated blood cancer but it’s a general belief among researchers that a combination of environmental and genetic factors is behind it. Factors such as smoking, exposure to various chemicals like benzene and radiation exposure definitely increases the risk of blood cancer.
Blood Cancer Symptoms
Even though symptoms vary according to the type of cancer, common symptoms of blood cancer include:
- Bone and joint pain
- Weight loss
- Lymph node inflammation
- Swelling in Spleen and liver
Blood Cancer Diagnosis
Leukemia – Complete Blood Count test reveals abnormal WBC levels as compared platelets and RBC.Your doctor will advise a CBC blood test if he/she to diagnose your leukemia accurately.
Lymphoma – Biopsy of the swollen lymph node along with CT or PET sc an and X-ray can quite comprehensively detect lymphoma.
Myeloma – CBC, urine tests for detection of proteins or chemicals produced as a result of myeloma development , X-ray, MRI, CT or PET sc and bone marrow biopsy are some of the tests used to confirm the condition.
Blood Cancer Treatment
Blood cancer treatment depends on its type, progress of the cancer, your age and the extent to which it has spread to different body parts. Most of the types of blood cancer are treatable owing to the advancements made in the field of cancer treatment. Some of the most commonly followed treatment includes:
Chemotherapy – Prevention of cancer cell production is achieved by injecting anticancer drugs into the body through the veins or by taking anticancer pills.
Radiation therapy – During this treatment, high-energy rays are used to kill the cancer cells.
Targeted Therapies – In this type of treatment, drugs target specific malignant cellsthereby causing no harm to the existing normal cells. It’s usually used in the treatment of leukemia.
Stem cell transplantation – In order to destroy cancer cells, healthy blood production is restored by infusing healthy stem cells into the body. This is one of the most effective forms of treatment that completely destroy the malignant cells.
Cancer Surgery – In this type of treatment, tumors and lymph nodes are surgically removed.
Immunotherapy – This treatment reactivates the body’s immune system to kill the malignant blood cells.