Blood cancer refers to a set of medical conditions wherein malignancy attacks the bones, blood, and lymphatic system.
Blood cancer is considered to be a life-threatening disease. According to statistics, someone is diagnosed with this illness every four minutes. However, because of the advancements in technology, the survival rates of many individuals with this condition have greatly increased. When the disease is detected in the early stages, it is manageable and controllable. However, if detected in the late stages, even with proper knowledge and equipment, death may still occur.
What are the Causes and Risk Factors of Blood Cancer?
Several studies have been made, but the cause of blood cancer has still remained unknown. However, there are certain conditions that increase the probability of acquiring the disease. For example, older people are more prone to acquiring the condition.
Immunocompromised patients are also at a higher risk of acquiring the disease. These patients are those individuals who are taking corticosteroids. It also refers to persons who have recently undergone organ transplantation. Patients with acquired immune deficiency syndrome and who are undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy are also immunocompromised.
A family history of blood cancer greatly increases the risk of acquiring the disease. This makes some individuals with a genetic predisposition to developing the disease. Lastly, smoking is also a risk factor.
What are the Three Kinds of Blood Cancer?
There are three main types of blood cancer: leukemia, multiple myeloma, and lymphoma. Leukemia and myeloma start at the bone marrow. Leukemia is a type of cancer affecting the cells in the blood, mainly white blood cells. On the other hand, multiple myeloma affects blood plasma cells. White blood cells and plasma cells have a vital role in the immune system of the individual.
On the other hand, lymphoma originates from the lymphatic system. Lymphoma is a form of blood cancer affecting the lymphatic system. Usually, this type of cancer presents a solid tumor of the cells of the lymph node. When the cancer cells affect adjacent organs, it is now termed as an extranodal lymphoma.
What are the Symptoms of Blood Cancer?
The general symptoms of blood cancer include fatigue, weariness, excessive bruising, recurrent fever, and vomiting. Persistent infections may also be observed. Pain in the back, abdomen, and bones may also be experienced. The patient may also experience psychological problems such as misperceptions and hallucinations. Specific symptoms for leukemia and multiple myeloma include: frequent bruising, dyspnea, anemia, and back pain. Frequent bruising and anemia are the results of the tumor growing within the bone marrow. The tumor interferes with the production of blood cells such as erythrocytes, platelets, and white blood cells.
In multiple myeloma, the first perceived symptom is bone pain. The tumor mainly produces abnormal proteins that can produce negative effects to other parts of the body. A bleeding nose and gums are other symptoms associated with this illness.
Symptoms of lymphoma depend on the location of the tumor. The first manifestation is swelling positioned in the groin, underarm, or neck area. If the associated symptoms include profuse bleeding and severe infections, seek medical attention immediately. These symptoms are very serious and fatal. Other serious symptoms that may lead to death include: cyanosis, fainting, immediate change in mental status, chest pain, extremely high fever, tachycardia, dyspnea, severe stomach pain (See: Stomach cancer), and seizure.
What are the Treatment Modalities for Blood Cancer?
The main goal of any treatment is to eliminate the disease. However, when the cancer has already metastasized to other areas of the body, the goal is changed. The treatment is made to increase the survival rate of the individual rather than to cure the disease. There are several ways to treat blood cancer.
Radiation therapy is a form of treatment wherein the cancer cells are exposed to radiation. Chemotherapy, on the other hand, is the use of chemical drugs to target and kill cancer cells. One of the disadvantages of radiation therapy and chemotherapy is that it cannot determine which are the good and bad cells. This also results in the elimination of normal and healthy cells.
In addition, a stem cell transplant is a process wherein normal, healthy bone marrow is transplanted into patients. This healthy bone marrow then produces healthy, normal blood cells. This treatment is only indicated in severe cases because the treatment itself is life-threatening. The possible complications include sepsis and mucositis.
Finally, targeted therapy is a treatment option that specifically inhibits the growth of cancer cells. The medications include some components that target specific molecules that are needed in the development of tumor cells. This treatment does not produce much harm to the normal cells like other procedures.
Aside from the classical ways in treating blood cancer, some medications are included to control other symptoms or infections. These include prescribing antibiotics for infections. Medications for nausea and pain relievers may also be taken. Blood transfusions to replenish blood components are also part of the supportive treatment. Oral prophylaxis is also given to address some dental problems.
Moreover, sometimes surgical removal of a certain part of the body is done to help contain the cancer in one area. This also prevents the spread of cancer to other areas. Vaccinations are also given to prevent certain infections from affecting the body. These include pneumonia and flu.
What are the Complications of Blood Cancer?
When blood cancer remains untreated or uncontrolled, several complications may be experienced. These include: jaundice, anemia, fractured bones, renal dysfunction, hypercalcemia, and peripheral neuropathy. Frequent infections may also be a common finding.
As a whole, blood cancer is a medical condition that needs proper care and medical attention. With the advancement of technology, controlling and managing the disease has been possible. However, it is still within the patient’s control to be able to accomplish this.