Blood Cancer: Types, Symptoms, Cause & Treatment
Welcome to our comprehensive exploration of blood cancer, a critical health concern impacting millions worldwide. In this blog, we’ll delve into the various types of blood cancer, identify common symptoms, understand potential causes, and discuss the latest in treatment options. We aim to provide insightful information to help patients, families, and caregivers navigate the complexities of these life-altering diseases.
Table of Contents
What Are the Different Types of Blood Cancer?
Leukaemia is a blood cancer with acute or chronic onset, affecting myeloid or lymphocytic cells. Key types include:
Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML)
Most common, varying survival rates.
Acute Lymphocytic Leukaemia (ALL)
Predominantly affects children and has better survival rates.
Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia (CML)
Mostly in adults, with moderate survival rates.
Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia (CLL)
Common post 55, highest survival.
Leukaemia’s impact differs across ages and types, with specific subtypes like Hairy cell leukaemia being particularly rare. Each type has unique prevalence and survival statistics, reflecting the disease’s complexity and variability.
What are the Symptoms of Blood Cancer?
Blood cancer symptoms are varied and can resemble those of less severe illnesses. Notable symptoms include:
Extreme tiredness affects daily activities.
Indicative of infection or abnormal cell response.
Drenching Night Sweats
Sudden, sleep-disrupting sweating.
Unusual Bleeding or Bruising
Prolonged or excessive.
Unexpected and significant over a short period.
Suggesting immune system issues.
Swollen Lymph Nodes/Enlarged Organs
Potential signs of leukaemia or lymphoma.
Especially in myeloma and leukaemia.
Consult healthcare providers if symptoms persist or are concerning, as early detection is key.
What Are the Causes of Blood Cancer?
Blood cancer results from DNA mutations in blood cells, the exact cause of which is unknown. These mutations disrupt normal cell functions, leading to the overproduction and longevity of abnormal cells. This overcrowds healthy cells in the bone marrow, leading to a deficiency in normal blood cells critical for various bodily functions.
Key points about the types of blood cancer include:
- Leukaemia: Thought to be caused by a mix of environmental and genetic factors leading to chromosomal changes. Specific gene switches in chromosomes may prompt these mutations.
- Lymphoma: Occurs due to mutations in the genes of white blood cells (lymphocytes), possibly triggered by infections or a weakened immune system.
- Myeloma: Linked to genetic changes in bone marrow’s plasma cells, possibly related to chromosomal alterations affecting cell growth regulation.
Ongoing research is crucial to fully understand the genetic and environmental triggers of these mutations.
How is Blood Cancer Diagnosed?
Healthcare providers diagnose blood cancer through a combination of symptom discussion, medical history, and physical examinations. They utilise a variety of tests, including:
Complete Blood Count (CBC)
Measures and counts blood cells.
Blood Chemistry Tests
Assess chemicals and substances.
CT, MRI, and PET scans provide detailed internal images.
Bone Marrow Biopsies
Analyse cell composition and DNA changes.
Blood Cell Examination
Detects abnormalities, such as through peripheral smear tests.
These methods collectively identify the type and extent of blood cancer, guiding subsequent treatment strategies.
What is the Treatment for Blood Cancer?
Blood cancer treatment is customised based on the patient’s specific condition, age, overall health, and the cancer type. Key treatments include:
Uses drugs to kill or slow cancer cells, tailored to the type of blood cancer.
Targets and destroys cancer cells with high-energy rays, often used alongside other treatments.
Boosts or alters the immune system to better recognize and fight cancer cells.
Attacks specific genetic changes in cancer cells, minimising damage to normal cells.
CAR T-cell Therapy
Modifies a patient’s T-cells to better attack cancer, used for certain leukaemias and lymphomas, especially when other treatments have failed.
Stem Cell Transplant
Involves replacing diseased bone marrow with healthy marrow, either from the patient (autologous) or a donor (allogeneic), each with its risks and benefits.
Healthcare providers balance benefits and side effects to recommend effective disease management plans, aiming for optimal patient outcomes with the best therapeutic balance.
How Can You Navigate Your Life After a Blood Cancer Diagnosis?
Navigating life after a blood cancer diagnosis involves understanding and managing various aspects of your health and well-being:
Understanding your Diagnosis:
- Learn about your type of blood cancer and treatment options.
- Seek second opinions to explore all treatment possibilities, including clinical trials.
Physical Health Management:
- Adhere to treatment schedules and manage side effects.
- Stay active as recommended and consult a dietitian for nutritional support.
- Seek emotional support through counselling and support groups.
- Maintain open communication with loved ones and establish a routine for normalcy.
- Address financial planning and legal preparations.
- Build a strong relationship with your healthcare team and utilise community resources.
- Ensure regular check-ups for continuous monitoring.
- Employ mindfulness and relaxation techniques to cope with stress.
Each step is crucial in creating a supportive environment for treatment and recovery. Stay informed, seek support, and focus on what you can control to navigate the journey with resilience and hope.
How Can Friends and Family Support Their Loved Ones Who Have Blood Cancer?
Supporting a loved one with blood cancer involves a balance of emotional and practical assistance:
- Emotional support.
- Listen and encourage: Be there to listen and offer encouragement. Respect their changing emotional needs.
- Social inclusion: Include them in activities, adjusting for their energy and comfort.
- Practical help.
- Daily tasks: Assist with chores, transportation, and meal preparation.
- Medical appointments: Accompany them to appointments and understand their condition for better support.
- Advocacy and research:
- Information gathering: Help with researching treatments and navigating insurance or financial aid.
- Maintaining normalcy.
- Respect their independence and continue to involve them in social activities, adjusting as necessary.
- Emotional and psychological support.
- Encourage joining support groups or seeking professional counselling for additional emotional support.
- Caregiver support.
- Self-care: Ensure you are taking care of your health to prevent burnout.
- Seek support: Utilise your support network or caregiver support groups.
Open communication and respecting their wishes and boundaries are essential. Being present, providing practical help, and ensuring emotional support are all crucial in helping a loved one navigate the challenges of blood cancer.
Blood cancer is a serious illness, however thanks to new and more effective treatments, more people are living with blood cancer than ever before. The sooner it is diagnosed and the faster it’s treated, the better your chance of recovery is, so it is always advisable to seek medical help from an experienced oncologist. Timely care and help can ensure an appropriate diagnosis and treatment of your condition.
At the CK Birla Hospital, we ensure patients get holistic medical support which includes treatment in a compassionate environment. This patient-centric approach not only helps patients heal better but also ensures they are aware of the preventive measures as well. In case you need to consult an oncologist, reach out to us, or book a direct appointment at the CK Birla Hospital.
Can Blood Cancer Be Prevented Through Lifestyle Changes?
While no strategy guarantees prevention, reducing risk factors through a healthy lifestyle, like not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, and a balanced diet, may lower the risk of blood cancer.
What Tests Are Used in the Diagnosis of Blood Cancer?
Blood cancer is diagnosed through blood tests to identify abnormal cells, bone marrow biopsy to examine marrow health, imaging tests to identify tumours, and genetic tests for specific markers.
What Are the Latest Advancements in Blood Cancer Research and Treatment?
Recent advancements include targeted therapies, immunotherapies like CAR T-cell therapy, better stem cell transplantation techniques, and personalised medicine based on genetic profiling of the cancer.
Are There Support Groups for Individuals and Families Affected by Blood Cancer?
Yes, there are many support groups for individuals and families affected by blood cancer, offering emotional support, information, and resources through hospitals, cancer organisations, and online communities.
Can a Person Lead a Normal Life After Successful Blood Cancer Treatment?
Many people can lead normal lives after successful blood cancer treatment, though they may require ongoing monitoring, lifestyle adjustments, and coping with long-term side effects or emotional impacts.
Get in touch with us
Get in touch with us