Blood Cancer Myths and Facts – The New Indian Express

Express press service

BENGALURU: Blood disorders can be collectively grouped into blood, bone marrow and lymphatic system disorders and their uncontrolled growth is called blood cancer. When the body’s red blood cells, which have oxygen-carrying capacity, or white blood cells, which are soldiers and fight germs; or platelets, which help prevent excessive bleeding, are unusual or abnormal, blood cancer is developing. All of these cells appear as stem cells or progenitor cells in the bone marrow.

The normal functioning, growth and development of these blood cells are disrupted in the marrow and cause cancer. Broadly, this group of cancers includes lymphoma, leukemia, myeloma, myeloproliferative neoplasms, and myelodysplastic syndromes.

Lymphomas are cancers of the lymph nodes and account for approximately 60-65% of all blood cancers. Lymphomas are also one of the most treatable cancers and occur in all age groups. Leukemias are cancers of the white blood cells and represent approximately 20%. Myeloma is a plasma cell tumor and constitutes 5-10% of all blood cancers.

Myth: Leukemia only affects children

Do: Leukemia is a cancer of the white blood cells and is broadly of two types: acute and chronic. The most common childhood leukemia is acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). But ALL can also occur in adults. Adults can have acute myeloid leukemia, chronic lymphatic leukemia, or chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). Some of them also respond dramatically to oral therapy and thus started the era of precision drugs in oncology (Imatinib for CML which is a wonder drug).

Myth: Blood cancer is caused by/presents as anemia

Do:Anemia can be one of the manifestations of cancer. However, anemia is often due to iron deficiency (blood or nutritional loss) or other deficiencies such as vitamin B12 deficiency in vegetarians or folate deficiency. Blood cancer can present as hemorrhagic manifestations such as bruising, infections due to abnormal number or functioning of white blood cells, or anemia. Other symptoms of blood cancer may include fatigue, fever, body aches (bone pain). Myeloma can present with kidney dysfunction or even fractures.

Myth: Leukemia and blood cancer are the same

Do: There are three main types of blood cancers: leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma, as well as other minor types. Leukemia is a type of cancer that affects all white blood cells and prevents them from performing their main function of fighting infection. These abnormal cells are also found in the blood. This is commonly seen in young children under the age of 15.

Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system and lymph nodes that primarily affects lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell. It is usually diagnosed in people between the ages of 15 and 35, as well as in those over 50.

Myeloma is a cancer that affects plasma cells, a type of white blood cell that produces antibodies to protect the body against infection. The immune system is weakened and prone to infections because of this cancer.

Myth: It is believed that if one has a family history of cancer, one will definitely have cancer/blood cancer

Do: Most people with a family history of cancer do not have a higher risk of getting cancer, but those with a family history of certain conditions like HBOC (Hereditary Breast Ovarian Cancer) do. They should be examined for possible solutions through genetic counseling and sometimes genetic testing (blood/saliva tests). Some blood cancers can be linked to genetic conditions such as Li Fraumeni syndrome and Down syndrome causing leukemias in addition to other conditions. About 4% of blood cancers may have a genetic link.

Myth: A bone marrow transplant is necessary for everyone with blood cancer.

Do: Not all blood cancer patients need a transplant. The need for a bone marrow transplant is assessed individually based on the underlying diagnosis, response to treatment, and genetic profile of the tumor. Patient response to treatment in cases of acute leukemia has improved thanks to cutting-edge genetic profiling technologies combined with innovative tailor-made medicines.

Myth: Blood cancer is almost always fatal

Do: In fact, blood cancers are one of the most treatable and in many cases curable cancer subsets. Treatment success rates are improving dramatically and patients are living longer than ever, thanks to cutting-edge research. There are currently a variety of personalized therapeutic agents that have been shown to be effective in the treatment of blood cancer. These include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapy/biologics, bone marrow transplantation (matched/haploidentical donor, etc.) and immunotherapy.

It is strongly recommended that you seek medical help from a qualified healthcare professional. Early detection of cancer increases the chances of a complete cure.

Director of Medical Oncology and Hemato-Oncology, Fortis Hospital, Richmond Road, Bangalore

BENGALURU: Blood disorders can be collectively grouped into blood, bone marrow and lymphatic system disorders and their uncontrolled growth is called blood cancer. When the body’s red blood cells, which have oxygen-carrying capacity, or white blood cells, which are soldiers and fight germs; or platelets, which help prevent excessive bleeding, are unusual or abnormal, blood cancer is developing. All of these cells appear as stem cells or progenitor cells in the bone marrow. The normal functioning, growth and development of these blood cells are disrupted in the marrow and cause cancer. Broadly, this group of cancers includes lymphoma, leukemia, myeloma, myeloproliferative neoplasms, and myelodysplastic syndromes. Lymphomas are cancers of the lymph nodes and account for approximately 60-65% of all blood cancers. Lymphomas are also one of the most treatable cancers and occur in all age groups. Leukemias are cancers of the white blood cells and represent approximately 20%. Myeloma is a plasma cell tumor and constitutes 5-10% of all blood cancers. Myth: Leukemia only affects children Fact: Leukemia is a cancer of the white blood cells and is basically of two types: acute and chronic. The most common childhood leukemia is acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). But ALL can also occur in adults. Adults can have acute myeloid leukemia, chronic lymphatic leukemia, or chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). Some of them also respond dramatically to oral therapy and thus started the era of precision drugs in oncology (Imatinib for CML which is a miracle drug). Myth: Blood cancer is caused by/presents as anemia Fact: Anemia can be one of the manifestations of cancer. However, anemia is often due to iron deficiency (blood or nutritional loss) or other deficiencies such as vitamin B12 deficiency in vegetarians or folate deficiency. Blood cancer can present as hemorrhagic manifestations such as bruising, infections due to abnormal number or functioning of white blood cells, or anemia. Other symptoms of blood cancer may include fatigue, fever, body aches (bone pain). Myeloma can present with kidney dysfunction or even fractures. Myth: Leukemia and blood cancer are the same Fact: There are three main types of blood cancers: leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma in addition to other minor types. Leukemia is a type of cancer that affects all white blood cells and prevents them from performing their main function of fighting infections. These abnormal cells are also found in the blood. This is commonly seen in young children under the age of 15. Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system and lymph nodes that primarily affects lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell. It is usually diagnosed in people between the ages of 15 and 35, as well as in those over 50. Myeloma is a cancer that affects plasma cells, a type of white blood cell that produces antibodies to protect the body against infections. The immune system is weakened and prone to infections because of this cancer. Myth: It is believed that if someone has a family history of cancer, they are sure to get cancer/blood cancer Fact: Most people with a family history of cancer are not more likely to get cancer, but some conditions like HBOC (Hereditary Breast Ovarian Cancer) do. They should be examined for possible solutions through genetic counseling and sometimes genetic testing (blood/saliva tests). Some blood cancers can be linked to genetic conditions such as Li Fraumeni syndrome and Down syndrome causing leukemias in addition to other conditions. About 4% of blood cancers may have a genetic link. Myth: A bone marrow transplant is necessary for everyone with blood cancer. Reality: Not all blood cancer patients need a transplant. The need for a bone marrow transplant is assessed individually based on the underlying diagnosis, response to treatment, and genetic profile of the tumor. Patient response to treatment in cases of acute leukemia has improved thanks to state-of-the-art genetic profiling technologies combined with innovative and tailored drugs. Myth: Blood cancer is almost always fatal Fact: In fact, blood cancers are one of the most treatable and in many cases curable cancer subsets. Treatment success rates are improving dramatically and patients are living longer than ever, thanks to cutting-edge research. There are currently a variety of personalized therapeutic agents that have been shown to be effective in the treatment of blood cancer. These include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapy/biologics, bone marrow transplantation (matched/haploidentical donor, etc.) and immunotherapy. It is strongly recommended that you seek medical help from a qualified healthcare professional. Early detection of cancer increases the chances of a complete cure. Director of Medical Oncology and Hemato-Oncology, Fortis Hospital, Richmond Road, Bangalore

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