BLOOD CANCER – Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment
Blood Cancer refers to the development of abnormal blood cells, or cancerous cells, which prevent blood from performing many of its functions, like fighting infections or preventing bleeding. In most blood cancers, the normal blood cell development process is interrupted by uncontrolled growth of an abnormal type of blood cell.
Blood cancers affect the production and function of blood cells. Most of these cancers start in the bone marrow where blood is produced.
There are three main types of blood cancers:
Leukemia, a type of cancer found in blood and bone marrow, is caused by the rapid production of abnormal white blood cells. The high number of abnormal white blood cells impairs the ability of the bone marrow to produce red blood cells and platelets.
Lymphoma is a type of blood cancer that affects the lymphatic system, which removes excess fluids from the body and produces immune cells. In this type of cancer Abnormal lymphocytes or lymphoma cells, multiply and collect in lymph nodes and other tissues. Over time, these cancerous cells impair our immune system.
Myeloma is a cancer of the plasma cells. Plasma cells are white blood cells that produce disease- and infection-fighting antibodies in your body. Myeloma cells prevent the normal production of antibodies, leaving body’s immune system weakened and susceptible to infection.
The common symptoms of blood cancers include:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Feeling weak or breathless
- Easily bruise or bleed
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Swollen stomach or abdominal discomfort
- Frequent and repeated infections
- Fever/night sweats
- Pain in bones/joints
- Itchy skin
- Bone pain (ribs/back)
Blood Cancer is diagnosed with the following tests which are done to confirm the presence of cancer cells:
- Physical Test: This test helps people detect swollen lymph nodes.
- Blood Tests: Complete blood count is done to check the number of white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets.
- Biopsy: Samples of tissues are removed to look for the cancer cells. It is the only sure way to find the leukemia cells in the bone marrow.
- Cytogenetics: In this test, chromosomes of cells are checked from the samples of blood, bone marrow, or lymph nodes. If abnormal chromosomes are found, the test can show what type of cancer is there.
- Spinal Tap: In this test, a long, thin needle is used to remove fluid from the lower spine. The fluid is checked for cancer cells or other symptoms.
- Chest X-Ray: An X-ray can show swollen lymph nodes or other signs of disease in the chest.
There is no known way to prevent most types of Leukaemia, however, we can reduce the risk by:
- Avoiding high doses of radiation.
- Intake of proper Nutrition & staying physically active.
- Reducing exposure to chemicals like benzene.
- Quitting Smoking and tobacco.
Treatment & therapy options
Treatment for blood cancer depends on the type of cancer, age, how fast the cancer is progressing, where cancer has spread and other factors. Some common blood cancer treatments include:
- Stem cell transplantation: A stem cell transplant infuses healthy blood-forming stem cells into the body. Stem cells can be collected from the bone marrow, circulating (peripheral) blood and umbilical cord blood.
- Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is the use of anticancer drugs designed to interfere with and halt the growth of cancer cells in the body. Chemotherapy for blood cancer sometimes consists of giving several drugs together in a set regimen. It may also be given before a stem cell transplant.
- Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy may be used to destroy cancer cells or to relieve pain or discomfort. It may also be given before a stem cell transplant.