BLOOD CANCER AWARENESS MONTH
Blood cancer is a type of cancer that affects the production and function of blood cells. The abnormal growth of the blood cells starts in the bone marrow, soft, spongy tissue in the center of bones. Bone marrow makes stem cells which further become red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.1, 2
Inthe majority of blood cancers, the uncontrolled growth of abnormal blood cellsinterferes with the normal development of blood cells. Consequently, blood is unable to carry out many of its functions, such as finding off infections or avoiding life-threatening bleeding.1
There are three major types of blood cancer:1
- Leukemia- is a type of blood cancer caused usually by abnormal growth of white blood cells.
- Lymphoma- is called a cancer of lymphocytes. Lymphocytes are a type of white blood cell that fight infections. This cancer affects the lymphatic system and further immune system.
- Multiple myeloma- is a type of blood cancer that affects plasma cells. Plasma makes antibodies that fight infections in the body.
According to a 2019 study, India ranks 3rd highest in reported cases of blood cancer, affecting 70000 men and women in the country.4
Blood cancer symptoms and signs: 5
Depending on the type of blood cancer, symptoms of blood cancer may vary individually. Symptoms of Blood cancer may include:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Bruising or bleeding
- Lumps or swellings
- Shortness of breath
- Drenching night sweats
- Persistent, recurrent, or severe Infections
- Rash or itchy skin
- Pain in your bones, joints, or abdomen
- Tiredness or fatigue
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck, underarms, and groin
Risk factors for Blood cancer:6
- Gender: Menare more likely than women to develop leukemia.
- Age: The risk of most leukemia increase with age. The median age of patients diagnosed with this cancer is 65 years and older.
- Exposure to industrial chemicals orradiation raises the risk of blood cancers.
- Family history of blood cancers
- People who have certain blood diseases are more likely to get AML. These diseases include myelodysplastic syndromes.
- A minority of adults have certain rare congenital diseasesfrom birth, which puts them at higher risk for AML and ALL. Eg: Down syndrome, ataxia-telangiectasia, or Bloom syndrome, for instance, are more likely to develop acute leukemias.
Frequent infections: If a person is having chronic lymphocytic leukemia, they may get serious infections. Infections can occur when your blood lacks sufficient germ-fighting antibodies (immunoglobulins).
Risk to a more severe cancer type: A small percentage of patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia may progress to diffuse large B-cell lymphoma which is a more dangerous type of cancer. This is commonly referred to as Richter’s syndrome by doctors.
Higher risk of getting additional malignancies: A person’s chance of developing additional malignancies, such as skin cancer, lung cancer, and digestive tract cancer, is higher if they have chronic lymphocytic leukemia.
Immune system problems: A lesserproportion of patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia may experience an immune system issue that causes the disease-fighting cells of immune system mechanisms to incorrectly target red blood cells (autoimmune hemolytic anemia) or the platelets (autoimmune thrombocytopenia).
Cancer prevention is an action taken to lower the chance of getting cancer. In general, one can lower their chances of blood cancer with some key lifestyle choices:
Live smoke-tobacco: Smoking and chewing tobacco have been linked to blood cancer. Avoid tobacco exposure in all forms, including secondhand smoke.
Have a healthy diet: Reduce the consumption of saturated fat and red meat which may increasethe risk of cancer. Increase the intake of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Maintain a healthy weight and be physically active: Obesity increases the risk of many forms of cancer. Enough physical activity can lower the risk of various types of cancer. Participating in any amount of physical activity offers some health benefits including weight maintenance.
Get regular medical care: Regular self-exams and screenings for cancer may increase the chances of discovering cancer early when treatment is most likely to be successful.
Treatment for Blood cancer:9
Cancer treatment depends on the type of cancer,age, its progression and spread, and other factors. Some common blood cancer treatments are as follows:
Stem cell transplantation- Also, known as stem cell transplant, it helps re-establish healthy blood-forming stem cells into the bodyby replacing unhealthy bone marrow with leukemia-free stem cells. This procedure aids in the restoration of healthy blood-forming stem cells in the body.
Chemotherapy- It is the major form of treatment for leukemia. Anticancerdrugs are to kill leukemia cells. Depending on the type of leukemia a patient has, they may receive a single drug or a combination of drugs, and treatment may be given in the form of pills or an injection.
Radiation therapy- Radiation therapy: It can be used to treat pain or discomfort or to kill cancer cells. It might also be administered before a stem cell transplant.
The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society has designated September of every year as “Blood Cancer Awareness Month”. The main goal of Blood Cancer Awareness Month is to makeaware the public of the different types of blood cancer, their risk factors, ways to prevent them, new developments in therapy, and the current survival rate of those who have it. Since staggering 8 lakh cases of blood cancer are reported each year, placing India third in the world, public health administrators of health in India have considerable concerns about this expanding burden. Therefore, it becomes very important to aware Indians of blood cancers and their preventive measures.10
- Blood cancer, Available at: https://www.hematology.org/education/patients/blood-cancers,Assessed on 17th August 2022.
- Bone marrow, Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-terms/def/bone-marrow, Assessed on 17th August 2022.
- Blood cancer, Available at: https://www.hematology.org/education/patients/blood-cancers, Assessed on 17th August 2022.
- Blood Cancer – A Growing Health Burden for India, Available at: https://www.medanta.org/patient-education-blog/blood-cancer—a-growing-health-burden-for-india/, Assessed on 17th August 2022.
- Blood cancer symptoms and signs. Available at: https://bloodcancer.org.uk/understanding-blood-cancer/blood-cancer-signs-symptoms/. Assessed on 17th August 2022.
- Blood cancer, Available at: https://www.cancercenter.com/cancer-types/leukemia/risk-factors, Assessed on 17th August 2022.
- Chronic-lymphocytic-leukemia, Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/chronic-lymphocytic-leukemia/symptoms-causes/syc-20352428, Assessed on 17th August 2022.
- The 10 commandments of cancer prevention, available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/the-10-commandments-of-cancer-prevention, Assessed on 17th August 2022.
- Leukemia, Treatment, Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/leukemia/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20374378, Assessed on 3rd September 2022
- September is Blood Cancer Awareness Month, Available at: https://www.lls.org/article/september-blood-cancer-awareness-month#, Assessed on 17th August 2022.