In this Health Article:
- What Causes Blood Cancer?
- What Are the Types of Blood Cancer?
- What Are the Symptoms of Blood Cancer?
- What Are the Diagnosis & Tests for Blood Cancer?
- What Are the Treatments Available for Blood Cancer?
- How Do You Cope Up with Blood Cancer?
- What Are the Ways to Prevent Blood Cancer?
- Medications for Blood Cancer Available at InternationalDrugMart.com
- Self Care
IntroductionBlood cancer or Leukemia is a type of cancer that affects the bone marrow. The bone marrow is a flexible, soft tissue found in the hollow interior of the bones. The function of the bone marrow is to produce blood cells such as red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Leukemia is a cancer that starts in the white blood cells. Blood cancer or Leukemia affects people of all ages, both adults and children.
What Causes Blood Cancer?The function of white blood cells is to help prevent and fight infection by destroying bacteria, viruses, germs and other foreign cells. White blood cells have the ability to defend cancer also. But in those affected with leukemia, the bone marrow produces abnormal white blood cells. The abnormal cells are referred to as leukemia cells. Abnormal white cells can have two effects. Firstly, over a period of time abnormal white cells can damage the immune system. Secondly, excess white cells can overcrowd red blood cells and platelets and mar their functions.
The exact reason for abnormal white blood cells in some individuals is unknown. However, the risk factors associated with blood cancer or leukemia have been identified. The risk factors are:
Exposure to radiation: Those who are exposed to very high level of X rays and ultraviolet light, nuclear power plant accidents and atomic bomb explosions (during world war II in Japan) are more prone than others to develop leukemia.
In contact with chemicals: Those who are exposed to carcinogen chemical such as benzene, as it can damage cell and substances within them. Exposure to Formaldehyde, a pungent gas also increases risk of developing Leukemia.
Viruses: Human T-Cell leukemia virus is a rare virus, which can cause specific leukemia.
Myelodysplastic syndrome: This is a blood disease and those with Myelodysplastic syndrome are prone to developing acute myeloid leukemia.
Chemotherapy: Cancer patients who have received chemotherapy, a cancer therapy are likely to be diagnosed with leukemia later in life.
Genetics: For those who have had some family member affected with leukemia, genetics may have a role in developing leukemia.
Other blood disorders: Those afflicted with blood disorders like Aplastic anaemia are prone to blood cancer. Herein, the bone marrow fails to produce blood cells correctly.
What Are the Types of Blood Cancer?Blood cancer or leukemia is classified into different types based on how fast the disease progresses and the type of white cell affected. Lymphoid and myeloid cells are the cells affected.
Acute lymphocytic leukemia: As the word “acute” suggests, the disease spreads rapidly, can be life threatening and requires urgent treatment. And the word “lymphocytic” corresponds to the lymphocytes cells, which are the mature cells that are affected. Lymphocytes cells normally fight infection. Most common in children, acute lymphocytic leukemia responds well to treatment.
Acute myelogenous leukemia: Also spreads rapidly and affects immature blood cells called myelogenous. This form of leukemia is most common and responds well to treatment with a possibility to relapse.
Chronic lymphocytic leukemia: It progresses more slowly than acute lymphocytic leukemia and the lymphocytes cells are affected which normally fight infection.
Chronic myelogenous leukemia: It progresses more slowly, sometimes over the years compared to acute myelogenous leukemia. At its earliest stage, there may not be any noticeable signs or symptoms.
Hairy cell leukemia: A rare blood cancer, the progression is rather slow and the type of white cell, which causes is B cells. These B cells look “hairy” under a microscope. Considered to be a chronic disease, there is no absolute cure for hairy cell leukemia.
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What Are the Symptoms of Blood Cancer?The symptoms of blood cancer or leukemia are never the same and keep changing with advancement of the disease. Sometimes, the afflicted individual may not experience symptoms in the early stages. But with advancement of blood cancer, the afflicted individual may experience some or all symptoms. Symptoms of leukemia include the following.
- General ill feeling.
- Weakness, paleness, chronic fatigue.
- Fever and flu-like symptoms
- Frequent injuries and prolonged bleeding.
- Sudden drastic weight loss.
- Abdominal pain.
- Frequent bacterial or viral infections.
- Frequent headaches.
- Enlarged nymph nodes.
- Pain in bones and joints.
- Night sweats.
- Blood in urine or stools.
- Bleeding from gums and nose.
What Are the Diagnosis & Tests for Blood Cancer?It is best to seek medical intervention when you notice one or more of blood cancer symptoms. Your doctor may recommend a specialist who treats blood cancer or leukemia. Many times, blood cancer diagnosis is followed by suspected medical history, physical examination, incidental blood tests or studies performed for any other indication. The doctor initiates the process by asking questions related to patient’s medical history, causes of symptoms, the time it started, its duration, any other medical condition that exists etc.
Physical examination: A physical examination of the patient is conducted. This is done to check if swelling of the lymph nodes, spleen and liver appears.
Blood test: A blood test, which is the most specific test for blood cancer, will be recommended. If the blood test shows an unusually large number of white blood cells, it suggests the possibility of blood cancer.
Biopsy: A more specific and rather complicated test is the bone marrow biopsy. Blood sample is given. And then, a bone marrow biopsy is performed. Either the bone in the hip or the chest is chosen. A long, thin needle is inserted into the marrow of the bone. This is done to draw out small amount of bone and marrow together.
X-ray: To check for signs of disease exists in the chest.
What Are the Treatments Available for Blood Cancer?Post results of tests, the doctor will discuss future course of treatment plans. The various treatment options available, the methodology and the results that could be expected would be discussed. In case of acute leukemia, the treatment would begin immediately. On the other hand, for chronic leukemia, where the signs and symptoms are not very noticeable, the doctor may decide to use the wait and watch technique. The patient would be monitored closely. Treatment would be commenced as soon as the symptoms occur or worsen.
The age, extent of disease, other health conditions of the patient are taken into consideration while planning the treatment options. Blood cancer is treated by one method or a combination of the following- chemotherapy, biological therapy, and radiation therapy or bone marrow transplantation. In those patient’s whose spleen is enlarged, surgery may be required to remove it.
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How Do You Cope Up with Blood Cancer?The reaction to diagnosis of blood cancer differs from one individual to another. It is normal for the afflicted individual and close family members who share the information to experience anger, frustration and disappointment. This is the time when the blood cancer patient requires more emotional support than ever before. Here are some coping tips that can help ease the situation.
- After the doctor has confirmed diagnosis, consider sharing with people who you are comfortable with. At times of emotional distress, these people can provide you with the much-needed support.
- Be open, interact and share your concerns with the doctor.
- Update, read books on blood cancer. Improving your knowledge can be of self-help.
- Keep records and track your treatment plan.
- Be part of a social group that provides support to those who are diagnosed with blood cancer. You may benefit by learning how others cope with their situation.
- Try not to change your normal activities like playing games, participating in religious activities, social activities etc.
- Maintain an enjoyable exercise regimen.
- Eat well. Avoid foods not recommended by your doctor.
- Ask for help. You may lack stamina to do all that you want to.
- Plan an enjoyable vacation and feel rejuvenated.
- Let not emotions control you, gain control over it.
- Treatment can be very exhausting. Care for your skin also.
What Are the Ways to Prevent Blood Cancer?As such there aren’t any preventable measures to restrict onset of blood cancer. However, these are normal measures that can help to minimize risk and contribute to a healthy life.
- Exercise regularly.
- Follow a disciplined, healthy lifestyle.
- Keep away from herbicides and insecticides.
- Avoid exposure to radiation.
- Eat healthy food and drink plenty of water.
- Avoid self-medication and seek medical attention for any health related issues.
- Discuss even vague symptoms related to blood cancer, if experienced.
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Self CareBlood cancer treatment may require frequent visits to the doctor. As such the symptoms is likely to make you feel physically exhausted and emotionally low. Use these self-care tips and enable yourself to travel through the process successfully.
- Never travel alone. Take a person who understands your condition.
- You may feel exhausted. Take short naps.
- Discuss with your employer and try to reschedule work activities so that it doesn’t hinder treatment plans.
- Conserve energy for the most important activities of the day.
- If you are taking other medicines, discuss with doctor regarding its continuation.
- Do not postpone or avoid treatment schedules.
- Feel free to discuss with doctors any health concern or changes you feel.
- Make sure you eat a healthy diet, helps to fight fatigue.
- Getting well is your ultimate motto. Work towards it.
- Chart an enjoyable exercise regimen and do it regularly.