What is blood cancer?
Blood cancer itself is not a single disease but an umbrella term for several types of cancers. As the word suggests, it means cancers relating to the blood, any cancer that affects the production and function of blood is classified as a blood cancer. Blood cells are produced in the hollow of our bones in a soft gel like tissue called bone marrow. The formation development and differentiation of blood cells happens here through a process known as hematopoiesis.
All blood cells are derived from primitive cells called stem cells and these are pluripotent in nature. Meaning, they have the potential to develop into all types of blood cells. Stem cells differentiate into two different cell groups- the myeloids and the lymphoids. The lymphoid group differentiate further to form T cells and B cells whereas myeloid group differentiates further to form red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets.
Types of Blood cancer:
There are two types of blood cancer:
Leukemia, generally used synonymously with blood cancer, is actually a subtype that affects the white blood cells in the body. Rapid growth of abnormal WBCs is noted, due to which the body’s ability to fight infections and diseases falters. The production of red blood cells and platelets is also impaired as the cancerous cells crowd the bone marrow.
Myeloma is the cancer of plasma cells, derivatives of B lymphocytes that are responsible for producing antibodies in our body. Plasma cells divide rapidly in this type of cancer, crowding the bone marrow and inhibiting the production of normal cells. Also, the cancerous plasma cells continue to produce antibodies, only they are dysfunctional in nature and can harm the body instead of defending it.
The risk factors are the conditions that suggest higher probabilities for a certain disease, in this case blood cancers. Presence of risk factors does not imply cancer but only indicates likelihood.
- Having a family history of blood cancer
- Genetic syndromes
- Exposure to some chemicals
- Exposure to some chemotherapy drugs
- Prior exposure to radiation
- Fever and frequent infections
- Persistent fatigue and weakness
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Night sweats and chills
- Bone/joint pain
- Abdominal discomfort
- Shortness of breath and wheezing
- Itchy skin or rashes
- Swelling of lymph nodes in the neck, underarms or groin areas
The exact diagnosis for blood cancer depends on the symptoms and stage of the cancer but a few tests may be used as indicatives.
- Blood tests
- Bone marrow exam
- Imaging tests such as CT scan, PET scan or x-ray
- Lymph node biopsy
The treatment of blood cancer depends on the type and stage of the cancer, the common treatment options in case of blood cancers are as follows:
This is one of the most reliable treatments for blood cancer, the chemotherapy drugs are injected intravenously or given orally. The drugs can thus reach all the cancer affected areas, which makes this an effective treatment for widespread cancers. On the other hand, chemotherapy has its side effects and so is not advised in large dosage. It is used in combination with other treatment methods for that reason.
Radiotherapy or radiation therapy uses high energy radiation to kill or damage cancerous cells and stops them from multiplying. It is a controlled exposure of the body to radiation. Cancerous cells are more susceptible to radiation than healthy cells, which are much better at recovering from radiation exposure. Focusing the radiation on a limited area decreases the potential side effects in the body too.
Stem cell transplantation:
The replacement of unhealthy stem cells that develop into dysfunctional or cancerous cells by healthy stem cells is called stem cell transplantation. This is usually opted when the blood cells are severely affected by cancer. The dosage of chemotherapy or radiotherapy can be increased too by performing a stem cell transplantation.
Blood targeted therapy:
Targeted therapy also involves use of drugs to kill cancer cells like chemotherapy, but these work by targeting specific genes or proteins that cause cancer or support the growth and spreading of cancer cells. This is of two major types, monoclonal antibody therapy and interferon therapy.
The survival rate for cancer usually refers to the 5 year survival rate which is a percentage of people living 5 years after the cancer was diagnosed. The survival rates of all types of blood cancers are steadily increased, the survival rate of leukemia being about 64% and for Myeloma over 50%. Blood cancer is no longer absolutely terminal, but it is still not preventable and so early detection and immediate treatment is needed. One has to look out for the signs and symptoms, especially so in case of risk factors.
We find the best oncologists for you
Dr. Shankar VangipuramIndia Director Radiation Oncology HCG Hospitals Trained at: M.D Anderson Cancer Center; Tata Memorial Hospital
Dr. Neelesh ReddyIndia Senior Medical Oncologist Columbia Asia Hospital Trained at: Adyar Cancer Institute
Dr. Vamsi KrishnaIndia Senior Medical Oncologist Apollo Hospitals Trained at: Tata Memorial Hospital
Dr. Sandeep NayakIndia Senior Surgical Oncologist Fortis Hospital Trained at: Chittaranjan National Cancer Institute
Dr. Anil KamathIndia Senior Surgical Oncologist Apollo Hospitals Trained at: Tata Memorial Hospital
Dr. CN PatilIndia Senior Medical Oncologist Apollo Hospitals Trained at: Adyar Medical Institute
Dr. Upasana SaxenaIndia Senior Radiation Oncologist HCG Hospitals Trained at: Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute
Dr. Amit K. JotwaniIndia Senior Radiation Oncologist Continental Hospitals Trained at: Yashoda Cancer Institute
Dr. AVS SureshIndia Senior Medical Oncologist, Hemato-Oncologist Continental Hospitals Trained at: Kidwai Memorial Institute of Oncology
Dr. Aditya GuptaIndia Director of Neurosurgery Artemis Hospital Trained at: All India Institute of Medical Sciences
Dr. Chiramana HarithaIndia Senior Medical Oncologist Apollo Hospitals Trained at: CMC Vellore
Dr. Mishil ParikhIndia Senior Orthopedic Oncologist Apollo Hospitals Trained at: Padmashree Dr. D.Y.Patil Medical College
Dr. Sandeep BatraIndia Senior Medical Oncologist Max Superspeciality Hospital Trained at:PGIMS
Dr. Trinanjan BasuIndia Senior Radiation Oncologist HCG Hospitals Trained at: Tata Memorial Hospital
Dr. Gagan SainiIndia Senior Radiation Oncologist Max Superspeciality Hospital Trained at: All India Institute of Medical Sciences
Dr. Srinivas ChilukuriIndia Senior Radiation Oncologist Apollo Proton Cancer Centre Trained at: Tata Memorial Hospital
Dr. Raghava Kashyap. KIndia Consultant Nuclear Medicine Mahatma Gandhi Cancer Hospital Trained at: Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research
Dr. Rahul KanakaIndia Head of Oncology Sparsh Hospital Trained at: Adyar Cancer Institute
Dr. Balasubramanian VIndia Senior Surgical Oncologist Billroth Hospital Trained at: The Cancer Institute (WIA)
Dr. Gurpreet LambaUSA Senior Medical Oncologist Hackensack Meridian Health Trained at: New York Medical College
Dr. Amol RaoUSA Senior Medical Oncologist OC Blood and Cancer Care Trained at: Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
Dr. Rajesh IyerUSA Chairman of Radiation Oncology Community Medical Center Trained at: Temple University Medical School
Our cancer experts have an average in-field experience of 10+ years
Each of our oncologists has treated more than 10,000 cancer patients
Our doctors are trained at top cancer institutes such as Tata Memorial