Blood cancer mostly starts in the bone marrow where blood is produced and it affects the production and function of the blood-forming cells and tissues. Stem cells in the bone marrow mature and develop into three types of blood cells: red blood cells, white blood cells, or platelets. Blood cancers occur when abnormal blood cells start growing out of control, interrupting the function of normal blood cells, which fight off infection, and produce new blood cells. Blood cancer may be detected using a test if too many or too few of a type of blood cells or abnormal cells are found. A bone marrow biopsy may help confirm a diagnosis of blood cancer. Blood cancer hinders the body’s ability to fight infection.
Common types of blood cancer are acute lymphoblastic leukemia, acute myeloid leukemia, and chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Many patients with slow-growing types of leukemia don’t have symptoms. Rapidly growing types of leukemia may cause symptoms that include fatigue, weight loss, frequent infections, and easy bleeding or bruising.
Symptoms of blood cancer
The blood cancer symptoms may be very subtle at first and include fatigue, unexplained fever, abnormal bruising, and headaches, excessive bleeding such as frequent nosebleeds, unintentional weight loss, and frequent infections. Blood cancer fatigue is more severe and the exhaustion cannot be overcome with rest or a good night’s sleep. Some people may also experience muscle weakness or difficulty concentrating. Signs of blood cancer may include coughing or chest pain, itchy skin, loss of appetite or nausea, night sweats, shortness of breath, swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpits, or groin. Platelets are the cells that make the blood clot.
When the body stops making enough platelets, small cuts may bleed more than usual, or the patient might have a bloody nose, unusual bruising, bleeding gums, and tiny red dots on the skin. Because the white blood cells in the human body don’t fight infection well, one can get sick more often and take longer to recover. Cancer cells can build up in your lymph nodes, tonsils, liver, and spleen and cause them to swell.
Treatment of blood cancer
Blood cancer treatment varies because there are different types of blood cancers and disorders. Some blood cancer treatment options include biological therapy to kill blood cancer cells, radiation therapy, bone marrow transplant, immunotherapy, chemotherapy, and stem cell transplant. For slow-growing leukemia, treatment may include monitoring and for aggressive leukemia, treatment includes chemotherapy that is sometimes followed by radiation and a stem-cell transplant. Treatment options for blood cancer depend on the type and stage of cancer, the spread of disease, and the basic health of the patient.
Chemotherapy and radiotherapy take a huge toll on the patient’s body increasing the risk of bleeding and infection. Supportive treatments help to assist recovery and manage side-effects of chemo or radiotherapy. Supportive treatments for blood cancer may include antinausea and antiemetic medications, whole blood or blood component transfusions, and antibiotics/immunoglobulins to prevent infections. Tests and procedures to diagnose blood cancers may include blood tests, bone marrow exam, diagnostic imaging tests — CT scan, PET scan, and x-ray, physical examination of the patient, surgical lymph node removal for examination.