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Blood Cancer

Blood cancer affects blood cells and bone marrow which are spongy tissues inside the bones where blood cells are made. Blood cancer changes the way blood cells behave and how they work. There are three types of blood cells:

  1. White Blood Cells – They fight infections and are a part of the immune system
  2. Red Blood Cells – They carry oxygen to the body’s tissues and organs and bring carbon dioxide to the lungs so they can be breathed out
  3. Platelets – They help your blood clot when you’re injured

There are majorly three types of blood cancer –

  • Leukemia – People who have leukemia make a lot of WBCs that are unable to fight infections

There are 4 sub-types of Leukemia:-

1. Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL) – This starts in WBCs called Lymphocytes. People with ALL make too many lymphocytes that crowd out healthy cells. This is more common in children

2. Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) – This starts in myeloid cells, which grow into WBCs, RBCs, and platelets. AML lowers the number of healthy blood cells

3. Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL) – Like ALL, CLL also starts in lymphocytes but it grows slowly. It mainly affects older people but many don’t show symptoms until years after cancer has started

4. Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML) – Like AML, this cancer also starts in myeloid cells but the abnormal cells grow slowly. It is slightly more common in men than women

  • Lymphoma – This is a cancer of the lymph system that includes lymph nodes, spleen, and thymus gland. There are two types of lymphomas –

1. Hodgkin’s Lymphoma – Starts in B Lymphocytes, aka B Cells. These cells make proteins called antibodies that are responsible for fighting off germs

2. Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma – Starts in T cell or B cell

  • Myeloma – This is a cancer of the plasma cells, which are a type of WBC that makes antibodies. This can damage the bones and crowd out healthy cells. It also makes antibodies that are unable to fight the infections

Causes of Blood Cancer

  • Smoking
  • Exposure to radiations or chemicals
  • Family history of leukaemia
  • Genetic disorders like Down Syndrome

Symptoms of Blood Cancer

  • Persistent fatigue
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Anemia
  • Night sweats
  • Headaches
  • Fevers and chills
  • Nausea
  • Joint pain
  • Breath shortness
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Frequent infections

Prevention of Blood Cancer

  • Avoid exposure to radiations
  • Avoid chemicals like pesticides and benzene
  • Avoid smoking
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Stay active

Diagnosis of Blood Cancer

Some tests and procedures used for the diagnoses of blood cancer are:

  • Complete Blood Count – CBC helps in measuring the concentration of various types of blood cells, RBCs, WBCs, and platelet cell count. This test can help the doctors identify any abnormalities in the blood cells or their concentration
  • Bone Marrow Biopsy – This is the removal of bone marrow samples for testing. It is used to determine if the cancer is affecting the bone marrow, the stage, and severity of cancer, and the type of blood cancer
  • Lymph Node Biopsy – The lymphatic system is responsible for the body’s immunity. It includes the spleen, lymph nodes, and tonsils. In this type of biopsy, a small cut is made and the node is taken for examination. This test gives information about the blood cancer’s type, stage, and spreading
  • Spinal Tap – In this, a needle is inserted in the space between the bones in the lower back. Cerebrospinal fluid is extracted from here and examined under a microscope. This is done to see if cancer has spread to the spinal cord
  • Karyotype Test – This test maps the 46 chromosomes of a cell to determine the changes in the chromosomes and their arrangement. The test looks for abnormalities in shape, size, number, and arrangement of blood cells

Treatment of Blood Cancer

  • Chemotherapy – It is a chemical drug therapy that aims at destroying the abnormally and rapidly growing cells in the body. These drugs are usually injected into the veins and sometimes taken orally, depending on the stage of the treatment. These drugs restrict the cancerous cells from spreading further into the body
  • Radiotherapy – This method uses high-energy radiations to kill cancer cells. It aims at damaging the DNA in the cells, which restricts their growth and further reproduction
  • Targeted Therapy – These therapies target specific molecules that help cancer grow and spread across the body. The main aim is to target the genes, proteins, and blood vessels
  • Stem Cell Transplantation – This procedure aims at infusing healthy blood-forming stem cells into the body. It might be injected through the veins and then they travel across the blood and reach the bone marrow and work at making new blood cells