Blood Cancer: Types, causes and symptoms

Blood Cancer: Types, Causes and Symptoms

When we think of cancer, we most often think of tumors lurking somewhere in the body, such as in the lungs, breasts, prostate or colon. However, there is a type of cancer that sends its cells circulating everywhere throughout your body: blood cancer. Instead of tumors, blood cancer causes overproduction of abnormal white blood cells, which then crowd out healthy cells. As a result, there aren’t enough healthy cells left to do their jobs, which include fighting infection and transporting oxygen throughout the body.

Types of Blood Cancer

There are three main types of blood cancer: leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma. Though they are all cancers of the blood, they affect the blood and bone marrow in different ways.

Leukemia – This type of blood cancer causes the production of white blood cells that are unable to assist the immune system in fighting infections, and there are both chronic and acute types. Acute lymphocytic leukemia starts with white blood cells in bone marrow. Acute myeloid leukemia lowers the number of white cells, red cells and platelets. Both acute types can progress quickly. The most common type of leukemia, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, is a very slowly progressing type that starts in bone marrow and is more common in those of older age. Chronic myeloid leukemia progresses slowly in myeloid cells.

Lymphoma – As parts of the immune system working to fight infection, the lymph nodes, spleen and thymus gland store and transport white blood cells, including lymphocytes, which are where lymphoma blood cancer begins. There are two types: non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the most common blood cancer, and Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Myeloma – This cancer of white blood cells called plasma forms and spreads in bone marrow, where it can damage bones and reduce the presence of healthy cells, causing an inability to fight off infection. When it’s found in several areas of bone marrow, it’s called multiple myeloma.

Causes of Blood Cancer

While the causes of blood cancer can vary depending on the specific type and even subtype a person has, you’re more likely to get blood cancer as you get older and if you have a family history of blood cancer. Exposure to radiation, previous cancer treatment and certain chemicals can also cause blood cancer, as can smoking. Men are also at greater risk than women. Those with a weakened immune system are also more at risk.

Symptoms of Blood Cancer

Just like the causes of blood cancer, the symptoms of blood cancer can also vary based on what type of cancer it is – but the most common symptoms include:

  • Fever or chills
  • Low appetite, nausea, abdominal discomfort and unexplained weight loss
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Frequent infections
  • Frequent bruising, bleeding or nose bleeds
  • Bone, joint, or headache pain
  • Skin rash
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swollen lymph nodes

If you have any symptoms that concern you, schedule an appointment with your doctor right away. If symptoms are severe, come to Avail Hospital, where you’ll receive the compassionate, expert treatment you deserve.

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