Blood cancers affect blood cells and the bone marrow, interfering with how the blood cells behave and their functionality. This, in turn, affects the production of blood and how the body uses it. The main types of blood cells are:
- red blood cells which carry oxygen to the body’s tissues and carbon dioxide to the lungs before it is breathed out,
- white blood cells which are responsible for fighting infections, and
- platelets that help in blood clotting in case of an injury.
Types of Blood Cancers
Finding cancer in its early stages makes it more effective to treat and that is what is offered at our partner hospitals. Once a doctor has done a physical examination, more tests may be ordered if lung cancer is suspected. Some advanced tests are:
- Leukaemia: This cancer begins in the blood and bone marrow causing the body to create a lot of abnormal white blood cells that cannot fight infections. It interferes with the ability of the bone marrow to produce red blood cells and platelets. There are four types of leukaemia that are divided depending on the white blood cells they affect and their growth rate. These are as follows:
1. Acute Lymphocytic Leukaemia (ALL): Starts in the lymphocytes in the bone marrow and progresses rapidly, replacing healthy tissue with leukaemia cells. The leukaemia cells are then carried through the bloodstream to other tissues and organs such as the lymph nodes and brain.
2. Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML): It begins in the myeloid cells which usually grow into white and red blood cells and platelets reducing the number of healthy blood cells in them.
3. Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia (CML): Just like AML, this cancer also starts in the myeloid cells; however, the abnormal cells grow slowly spreading to the blood and eventually, to other body parts.
4. Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia (CLL): It is the most common type of leukaemia in adults and affects the lymphocytes in the bone marrow but grows slowly.
Loss of appetite, night sweats, fatigue and frequent infections are some of the symptom’s leukaemia patients may experience.
- Myeloma: This cancer begins in the plasma cells in the bone marrow. Plasma cells are a type of white blood cells that are responsible for making antibodies that fight infections. When the myeloma cells start to spread in the body through the bone marrow, they damage the bones and cannot fight infections.
People with myeloma or what is referred to as multiple myeloma may experience symptoms like unexplained bone fractures, bone pain, weight loss and recurrent infections.
- Lymphoma: It is a blood cancer that affects the lymphatic system which is a system comprising the lymph nodes, the thymus gland and the spleen which help in transporting white blood cells that fight infections, to the entire body. The main types of lymphoma are:
1. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma: It is more common than Hodgkin’s lymphoma and it affects the B cells or T cells. It can either be high grade meaning it grows fast or low grade if it is slow growing.
2. Hodgkin’s lymphoma: This type of lymphoma, on the other hand, is characterised by the presence of Reed-Sternberg cells in the lymph nodes.
Some of the symptoms that people with any of these cancers may experience are fever, weight loss, fatigue and drenching sweats. To learn more about these cancers including how they are diagnosed, treated and prevented, click here