What is blood cancer?

Blood cancer represents a large group of different malignancies. This group includes cancers of the bone marrow, blood, and lymphatic system, which includes lymph nodes, lymphatic vessels, tonsils, thymus, spleen, and digestive tract lymphoid tissue. Leukemia and myeloma, which start in the bone marrow, and lymphoma, which starts in the lymphatic system, are the most common types of blood cancer. What causes these cancers is not known.

As leukemia and myeloma grow within the bone marrow, they can interfere with the bone marrow’s ability to produce normal blood cells, including white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. This can cause frequent infections, anemia, and easy bruising. Lymphomas, which most typically appear as enlargement of the lymph nodes, can also interfere with the body’s ability to fight infections. Additionally, myelomas generate a substance that weakens bones, and produce abnormal proteins that can cause symptoms in other parts of the body.

Treatment of blood cancers has undergone substantial improvements, resulting in increased rates of remission and survival. Remission occurs when there is no sign of cancer. Today in the United States, almost 1 million people are alive with, or in remission from, blood cancer (Source: LLS).

People who have blood cancer can have problems with bleeding and serious infections. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for symptoms such as uncontrolled bleeding, severe sweating, difficulty breathing, pale or blue lips or fingernails, high fever (greater than 101 degrees Fahrenheit), fast heart rate, confusion, loss or change in level of consciousness, or anxiety.

Seek prompt medical care if you have experienced unexpected weight loss, persistent fever, frequent infections, night sweats, tiredness, bone pain, or enlarged lymph nodes.

SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of blood cancer?

Blood cancer can produce a variety of symptoms, or none at all.... Read more about blood cancersymptoms

CAUSES

What causes blood cancer?

Although the specific cause of blood cancer is not known, a number of factors are associated with its development. Many blood cancers are more common among older adults. Some tend to run in families. Certain infections also appear to increase the risk of some blood cancers, as does a weakened immune system.... Read more about blood cancercauses

TREATMENTS

How is blood cancer treated?

The goal of blood cancer treatment is to permanently cure the cancer or to bring about a complete remission of the disease. Remission means that there is no longer any sign of the disease in the body, although it may recur or relapse later.... Read more about blood cancertreatments

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

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This Article is Filed Under: Cancer