Blood CancerCancer » Blood Cancer
Quick Links: What are the Causes of Blood Cancer? | How is blood Cancer Diagnosed? | Symptoms of Blood Cancer | How is Blood Cancer Treated
Blood is an essential fluid in the body. Blood has different components such as red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets and plasma. It is a form of cancer which attacks the blood, bone marrow, or lymphatic system. Leukemias are cancers of the blood-forming tissues. The blood is made up of fluid called plasma and three types of cells and each type has special functions. White blood cells(WBCs) help the body fight infections and other diseases. Red blood cells(RBCs) carry oxygen from the lungs to the body's tissue and take carbon dioxide from the tissues back to the lungs. The red blood cells give red color to the blood.
There are three kinds of blood cancer: leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma. When a person is attacked with blood cancer, their bone marrow begins to produce a large number of abnormal white cells that do not die out like the natural white blood cells in the body. When the number get large enough, these cancerous blood cells will begin to interfere with the functions of the normal red and white cells in the body.
Acute leukemia is characterized by a rapid increase in the numbers of immature blood cells. Chronic leukemia is characterized by the excessive build up of relatively mature, but still abnormal, white blood cells. Leukemia and myeloma, which start in the bone marrow, and lymphoma, which starts in the lymphatic system, are the most common types of it.
What are the Causes of Blood Cancer?
Actual cause of blood cancer is not known. Many blood cancers are common among older people. Some tend to run in families. Following are some causes:
- Advanced age
- Certain types of infections
- Contact with chemical called benzene, one of the chemicals in petrol and a solvent used in the plastics industry
- Compromised immune system due to conditions such as HIV/AIDS, taking corticosteroids, or organ transplant
- Exposure to radiation or certain types of chemotherapy
- Personal history of certain blood and genetic disorders
How is Blood Cancer Diagnosed?
Diagnosis is usually based on repeated complete counts and a bone marrow examination. Observations of the symptoms, however, in rare cases blood tests may not show if a patient has leukemia, usually this is because the leukemia is in early stages or has entered remission. Physical exam is done to check for swollen lymph nodes, spleen, or liver. Biopsy is also done to remove the tissue to look for cancer cells.
What Are the Symptoms of Blood Cancer?
Like all blood cells, leukemia cells travel through the body. The symptoms of leukemia depend on the number of leukemia cells and where these cells collect in the body. Damage to the bone marrow, by way of displacing the normal bone marrow cells with higher numbers of immature white blood cells, results in a lack of blood platelets, which are important in the blood clotting process. People suffering from a chronic blood cancer may not suffer any obvious symptoms at all.
Following are some common symptoms:
- Weakness, fatigue, malaise and breathlessness
- Minimal body strain results inbone fractures
- Excessive or easy bruising
- Bleeding gums or frequent nose bleeds
- Recurrent infections or fever
- Excessive sweating of body during night
- Weight loss
- Frequent vomiting sensations
- Lymph node enlargement
- Abdominal pain, bone pain and back pain
- Decreased urination and difficulty while urinating
Most often, these symptoms are not due to cancer. An infection or other health problems may also cause these symptoms. Only a doctor can diagnose and confirm the root cause of the problem.
Blood Cancer Treatments
People with leukemia have many treatment options. The choice of treatment depends mainly on the following:
- The type of leukemia (acute or chronic)
- Age factor
- Whether leukemia cells are found in your cerebrospinal fluid
Most forms of leukemia are treated with pharmaceutical medications, typically combined into a multi- drug chemotherapy regimen. Some are also treated with radiation therapy. In some cases, a bone marrow transplant is useful.
- Immunotherapy may be the next great hope for cancer treatment. Nonspecific and specific immunotherapy combinations may be another potent strategy. In radio immunotherapy, an immunotoxin, a hybrid molecule formed by coupling an antibody molecule to a toxin that is injected into the patient. The antibody locks onto a signature protein the cancerous cells express and delivers the toxic dose to the cancer cells, because the treatment is precision-guided, adverse effects to the rest of the body are minimized. Preliminary results with the new drug are extremely promising, completely eradicating the human cancer cells grafted to mice
- Biological therapy uses special immune system cells and proteins to stimulate the body's immune system to kill cancer cells. Biological agents such as interferons, interleukins, monoclonal antibodies, tumor necrosis factors and colony-stimulating factors are natural substances found in the body that help alter the way the immune system reacts to cancer. Researches are now able to create reproductions of some of these biological agents in laboratories, imitating the natural immune agents. These agents are used to augment the anti-tumor immune response of the patient
- Chemotherapy: Many people with leukemia are treated with chemotherapy. Chemotherapy uses drugs to destroy leukemia cells. Induction chemotherapy is used to bring about bone marrow remission. For adults, standard induction plans include prednisone, vincristine, and an anthracycline drug; other drug plans may include L-asparaginase or cyclophosphamide
- Maintenance treatments with chemotherapeutic drugs to prevent disease recurrence once remission has been achieved. Maintenance therapy usually involves lower drug doses, and may continue for up to three years
- Hairy cell: Patients with hairy cell leukemia who are symptom free typically do not receive immediate treatment. Treatment is generally considered necessary when the patient shows signs and symptoms such as low blood cell counts, frequent infections, unexplained bruises, anemia, or fatigue that is significant enough to disrupt the patient's everyday life
Most patients with T-cell prolymphocytic leukemia, a rare and aggressive leukemia with a median survival of less than one year, require immediate treatment. All these treatments are also given in combination, depending on stage of cancer and requirement
This case illustrates both the aggressive nature of the blastoid variant of mantle cell leukemia/lymphoma as well as its heterogeneous immunophenotypic nature. However, identifying other environmental risk factors associated with leukemia is difficult for several reasons:
- Inability to confirm and quantify exposures
- Lack of prospective cohort
- Presence of different variants of leukemia
- Presence of co-founders
- Inadequate understanding of the pathophysiology of leukemia
Future attempts to overcome these obstacles (e.g., through improving laboratory detection method to confirm exposure; prospective cohort studies; focusing on specific types of leukemia and specific chemical agents) could possibly uncover other environmental risk factors associated with childhood leukemia and mitigate potentially harmful exposures to reduce the risk for disease.