Blood cancer is a form of cancer which attacks the blood, bone marrow, or lymphatic system. There are three kinds of blood cancer: leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma. These malignancies have varying prognoses, depending on the patient and the specifics of the condition, but overall survival rates with blood cancer increased radically in the late 20th century with the development of advanced treatments. When caught early, blood cancer can be very manageable in some cases, which is one very good reason to make regular trips to the doctor a priority for people of all ages.
In the case of leukemia, the cancer interferes with the body's ability to make blood. Leukemia attacks the bone marrow and the blood itself, causing fatigue, anemia, weakness, and bone pain. It is diagnosed with a blood test in which specific types of blood cells are counted. Treatment for leukemia usually includes chemotherapy and radiation to kill the cancer, and in some cases measures like bone marrow transplants may be required. There are several different types of leukemia, including chronic myelogenous leukemia, acute lymphoblastic leukemia, and hairy cell leukemia.
Lymphomas are blood cancers which involve the lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell. They are divided into Hodgkin's and non-Hodgkin's types. Lymphoma often involves swollen lymph nodes in addition to the symptoms for leukemia listed above, and it is also treated with chemotherapy and radiation. Multiple myeloma is a type of blood cancer which primarily appears in older people, involving the plasma, another type of white blood cell. Chemotherapy, radiation, and other drug treatments can be used to manage multiple myeloma.
The goal in treating blood cancer is to achieve remission, a situation characterized by the absence of symptoms. Even in remission, a blood cancer can still start up again, so people who have experienced blood cancer may need to attend regular follow-up medical appointments and annual checkups to check for a recurrence of the cancer. Blood cancer does not appear to be preventable, but like other cancers, the risk seems to be reduced among people who eat a healthy diet, exercise, and maintain good mental health.
People diagnosed with blood cancer can work with an oncologist, a doctor who specializes in cancer, or a hematologist, a doctor who specializes in diseases of the blood. Some patients work with both, attempting to develop a treatment plan which will be as effective as possible. Because individual cases can be quite varied, patients often benefit from second opinions to confirm the diagnosis and treatment plan.