Blood Cancer: Types and Their Associated Symptoms

Blood Cancer: Types and Their Associated Symptoms

470 Views

Blood cancer is a broad term encompassing several different types of cancers that affect the blood, bone marrow, and lymphatic system. The main reason for blood cancer is the disruption in the normal development and growth of blood cells, causing them to multiply uncontrollably.

With nearly a million individuals diagnosed with blood cancer annually, this type of cancer is fairly common. However, the symptoms of blood cancer are often mistaken for other non-serious conditions. Additionally, the pace at which the symptoms of different blood cancers manifest is also different. This highlights the importance of understanding the signs and symptoms of different types of blood cancer for early detection and optimal management. The blog serves as a comprehensive resource on the types of blood cancers and their associated symptoms.

There are three main types of blood cancer, each with their own unique characteristics and symptoms, as listed below:

1. Leukaemia

Leukaemia is a type of blood cancer that originates in the bone marrow, where blood cells are produced. This type of cancer affects the white blood cells, which are responsible for fighting infection.

Leukaemia occurs when there is an abnormal production of immature white blood cells, preventing the normal functioning of the immune system and crowding out healthy red blood cells and platelets. There is no cure for leukaemia but there are multiple treatment options for this blood cancer. Treatments help put the cancer in remission.

There are several different kinds of leukaemia, let’s discuss each type one by one.

i. Acute Myeloid Leukaemia

Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML) is a rapidly progressing and aggressive form of blood cancer that affects the myeloid cells, a type of white blood cell responsible for various immune functions and the production of red blood cells, and platelets in the bone marrow. AML can occur at any age but is more commonly diagnosed in older adults.

AML disrupts vital functions like oxygen transport, infection fighting, and blood clotting.

Treatment for AML typically involves intensive chemotherapy to eliminate leukaemia cells from the bone marrow. Bone marrow transplant may be considered for some patients, especially those at high risk of relapse. Targeted therapies and immunotherapies are also being explored as additional treatment options.

The common symptoms of this blood cancer include:

  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Frequent infections
  • Easy bruising and bleeding
  • Pale skin and shortness of breath
  • Fever
  • Swollen gums and mouth sores
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Enlarged lymph nodes

ii. Acute Lymphocytic (Lymphoblastic) Leukaemia

Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) is the most common type of leukaemia in children (below the age of 15), but it can also affect adults.

The disease originates in the bone marrow, where immature lymphoid cells undergo abnormal changes, leading to the production of leukaemia cells that do not function properly.

The primary treatment for ALL blood cancer is intensive chemotherapy, often administered in phases to eliminate leukaemia cells and prevent their recurrence.

Here’s a list of the common symptoms of this type of blood cancer:

  • Anaemia
  • Bleeding and bruising
  • Frequent infections
  • Bone and joint pain
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Night sweats
  • Headaches

 iii. Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia

Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML) is a type of blood cancer that originates in the bone marrow, affecting the myeloid cells. Unlike acute leukaemias, CML tends to progress slowly, often over a period of years. It primarily occurs in adults, with a median age of diagnosis at around 60 years.

CML develops due to a specific genetic abnormality called the “Philadelphia chromosome”. This results in an overactive BCR-ABL protein, driving uncontrolled myeloid cell production.

CML typically progresses through three phases: the chronic phase, the accelerated phase, and the blast phase. In the chronic phase, the disease progresses slowly, and individuals may not initially exhibit significant symptoms. If left untreated, CML can advance to the accelerated phase and ultimately to the blast phase, which is more aggressive.

The introduction of tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) has revolutionised the treatment of CML. These targeted therapies effectively inhibit the activity of the BCR-ABL protein, leading to significant improvements in outcomes.

The following is a list of common symptoms of this type of blood cancer:

  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Night sweats
  • Unexplained fever
  • Pain/discomfort in the left upper abdomen (enlarged spleen)
  • Easy bruising and bleeding
  • Frequent infections
  • Bone pain
  • Swollen lymph nodes

iv. Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia

Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) is a unique type of blood cancer known for its slow-growing nature. The lymphocytes become abnormal and multiply uncontrollably, but at a slower pace compared to other leukaemias.

The treatment for CLL is decided by the doctors after carefully considering the stage of the disease, the presence of symptoms, and the overall health of the individual. Common treatments for this blood cancer include chemotherapy, targeted therapies, immunotherapy, and, in some cases, stem cell transplantation.

Symptoms:

  • Fatigue
  • Frequent infections
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Easy bruising or bleeding
  • Night sweats
  • Fever

2. Lymphoma

Lymphoma is a type of blood cancer originating in the lymphatic system. Lymphomas are characterised by the abnormal growth of lymphocytes in the thymus, lymph nodes, bone marrow or the spleen.

There are two main types of lymphoma:

  • Hodgkin Lymphoma: HL is a lymphoma in which large abnormal Reed-Sternberg cells multiply in lymph nodes. This is a slow growing form of blood cancer.
  • Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma: NHL is a diverse group of lymphomas that do not contain Reed-Sternberg cells. It is a fast-growing type of blood cancer.

Hodgkin lymphoma is a type of blood cancer that can be cured completely, especially if detected early. Common treatment modalities include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, targeted therapy, and, in some cases, stem cell transplantation.

Symptoms of Lymphoma

  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Fatigue
  • Night sweats
  • Unexplained fever
  • Weight loss
  • Itching
  • Shortness of breath or chest pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Bone pain

3. Myeloma

Myeloma is a type of blood cancer that affects plasma cells, a type of white blood cell. Plasma cells are primarily responsible for producing antibodies that help the body fight infections.

In multiple myeloma (the most common type of myeloma), there is an abnormal growth and accumulation of plasma cells in the bone marrow, decreasing the functioning as well as growth of normal blood cells.

There is no cure for myelmoa, but there are many blood cancer treatments available, including chemotherapy, immunomodulatory drugs, proteasome inhibitors, corticosteroids, targeted therapies, and, in some cases, stem cell transplantation. It helps put the blood cancer into remission.

Common symptoms of this blood cancer include:

  • Bone pain, especially in the back, ribs, or hips.
  • Fractures that occur easily, even with minor injuries.
  • Fatigue and weakness.
  • Shortness of breath or anaemia.
  • Frequent infections.
  • Kidney problems, leading to increased thirst, urination, or fatigue.
  • Easy bruising or bleeding.
  • Weight loss.
  • Confusion or drowsiness.
  • Numbness or tingling in the legs or arms.
  • Swollen lymph nodes (less common).

Final Words

These were the most common blood cancer types and their symptoms. Prioritise your health by consulting a healthcare professional if you recognise any worrisome symptoms. Regular check-ups and open communication with a doctor ensure early detection and appropriate blood cancer treatments. If you wish to learn more about blood cancer and its types or want to discuss any concerning symptoms, consult with a reputable doctor.

Disclaimer:

This article has been written for information purposes only, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice by a qualified doctor or other health care professional. The author is not responsible or liable, directly or indirectly, for any form of damages whatsoever resulting from the use (or misuse) of information contained in or implied by the information in this article. Always consult a qualified healthcare provider for accurate diagnosis, personalised treatment, and recommendations tailored to your individual health needs.

Cancer