Get the Facts on Blood Cancer
Help us drive toward a cure during National Blood Cancer Awareness Month.
September is National Blood Cancer Awareness Month. During this month-long campaign, blood cancer organizations and charities around the world strive to increase awareness of blood cancer diseases – such as leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma – and build momentum to raise funds for research.
Every three minutes, a person in the U.S. is diagnosed with a blood cancer, accounting for nearly 10% of all new cancer cases in this country each year. This means approximately 172,910 people will be diagnosed with blood cancer this year.
Fortunately, survival rates have significantly improved in the last 20 years. Years of research has led to significantly improved outcomes for people diagnosed with blood cancers. According to the National Institutes of Health, 63% of people with leukemia live five years or longer. That rate rises to 70% for non-Hodgkin lymphoma and 85% for Hodgkin lymphoma.
Education and awareness is the first step in working toward effective treatments and cures for blood cancer diseases. Learn more during National Blood Cancer Awareness Month with these facts:
What is blood cancer?
Blood cancer, also called hematologic cancer, affects the production and function of your blood cells. Most blood cancers start in the bone marrow where blood is produced. Bone marrow produces three types of blood cells: red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Blood cancer happens when abnormal blood cells start to grow out of control. These abnormal blood cells, or cancerous cells, interfere with normal blood cell functions, such as fighting off infections and preventing severe bleeding.
There are three main types of blood cancers:
Leukemia is a type of cancer found in the blood and bone marrow. It is caused by the rapid production of abnormal white blood cells. The large amount of abnormal white blood cells are unable to fight off infection. They also impair 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 is tasked with removing excess fluids from the body and produces immune cells. Lymphocytes are white blood cells that fight off infection. When abnormal lymphocytes are created, they become lymphoma cells. These lymphoma cells multiply and accumulate in the lymph nodes and other tissues, impairing your immune system over time.
Myeloma is a type of blood cancer found in plasma cells, or white blood cells that produce antibodies to fight disease and infection. Myeloma cells stop normal antibody production. This leaves the immune system weak and highly susceptible to infection.
What are the symptoms of blood cancer?
Because there are no effective early screening options for blood cancers, people don’t typically know they are sick until they experience symptoms. There are many symptoms of blood cancers. See your doctor if you are experiencing any of the following for a prolonged period of time:
- Fever, chills
- Loss of appetite, nausea
- Persistent fatigue, weakness
- Night sweats
- Unexplained weight loss
- Abdominal discomfort
- Bone/joint pain
- Shortness of breath
- Itchy skin or skin rash
- Frequent infections
- Swollen lymph nodes in the groin, underarms or neck
What are the treatment options for blood cancer?
Treatment for blood cancer varies greatly depending on the type of cancer, patient age, how fast the cancer is progressing and where the cancer has spread, among other factors. Treatments for blood cancers include:
- Stem cell transplant for blood cancer: A stem cell transplant fills the body with healthy blood-forming stem cells. These cells may be collected from circulating blood, bone marrow or umbilical cord blood.
- Chemotherapy for blood cancer: Anti-cancer drugs are used to interfere with and stop the production of cancer cells in the body. Blood cancer chemotherapy sometimes involves several drugs working together in a set regimen. Chemotherapy for blood cancers may also be administered before a stem cell transplant.
- Radiation therapy for blood cancer: Radiation is used to destroy cancer cells or relieve pain and discomfort. Radiation for blood cancers may also be administered before a stem cell transplant.
Blood cancer hematologist/oncologist in Raleigh
Personalized Hematology-Oncology provides comprehensive hematology and oncology consultation for all types of cancers, including blood cancer. Our experienced oncologists specialize in chemotherapy, molecular targeted therapies and infusion administration. Contact us to learn more about our expertise in these cancer treatment areas.