Table Of Content


Blood cancer usually occurs in the bone marrow and affects the blood cells, characterized by abnormal and uncontrolled blood cell formation. Stem cells in our bone marrow mature and develop into three types of blood cells: red, white blood cells, and platelets. In most blood cancers, the normal blood cell development process is interrupted by the uncontrolled growth of an abnormal type of blood cell. These abnormal or cancerous cells can prevent the blood from performing its normal functions, such as fighting against infections, preventing bleeding, transporting nutrition and oxygen to the body's tissues, etc.

How is Blood Cancer Developed?

Blood cancers develop due to mutations in the DNA of the blood cells. In blood cancer, abnormal blood cells grow and multiply by interrupting normal blood cell developmen

Types of Blood Cancer

Blood cancers are classified into various types depending on the types of blood cells, how the condition develops, the origin of the cancer, and symptoms. The types of blood cancer include:

Leukemia develops in the bone marrow and blood. It happens when our body produces too many white blood cells, which prevents the bone marrow from producing red blood cells and platelets. There are four different types of leukemia, including:

  • Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) is the most common childhood cancer that affects white blood cells. It is fast-growing cancer that occurs when a bone marrow cell develops errors in its DNA.
  • Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a fast-growing type of blood cancer that starts in myeloid cells, which develop into white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets.
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is a slow-growing type of blood cancer that affects white blood cells in the bone marrow (lymphocytes). It usually affects older adults.
  • Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) starts in myeloid cells, but the abnormal cells grow slowly. It usually affects older adults and is caused by a chromosome mutation.

Lymphoma affects the lymphatic system, which is part of the disease-fighting cells of the immune system. These cells are found in the lymph nodes, spleen, thymus, bone marrow, and other body parts. It removes excess fluids from your body and produces immune cells. Lymphoma comes in two different types:

  • Hodgkin lymphoma develops in the lymphatic system from cells called lymphocytes. It is characterized by an abnormal lymphocyte known as the Reed-Sternberg cell.
  • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma arises from lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell that assists the body in fighting against infections.

Myeloma is a plasma cell cancer, and it is otherwise known as multiple myeloma. Plasma cells are white blood cells responsible for producing antibodies that protect us from infection. In myeloma, the cells build up in the bone marrow and replace healthy blood cells.

Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) are an uncommon type of blood cancer in which the bone marrow's immature blood cells do not develop into healthy blood cells.

Myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs) start with an abnormal mutation in a bone marrow's stem cell. It leads to an overproduction of any combination of white cells, red cells, and platelets.

Amyloidosis is characterized by the accumulation of abnormal amyloid deposits in the body. The heart, brain, kidneys, spleen, and other body organs might develop amyloid deposits.

Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia is characterized by an excess of aberrant white blood cells in the bone marrow that resembles both B cells, which are white blood cells (lymphocytes) and plasma cells.

Aplastic anemia is rare, where the body stops making enough new blood cells and develops by bone marrow destruction.

Stages of Blood Cancer

The TNM staging tool is commonly used to determine blood cancer stages.

Stage I: In this stage, the lymph nodes swell due to a rapid increase in lymphocytes. The risk at this stage is minimal because the cancer is localized to lymph nodes only.

Stage II: The multiplication of blood cells is quite high at this stage, which causes the liver, spleen, and lymph nodes to be enlarged.

Stage III: Anaemia occurs at this stage. The spleen, liver, and lymph nodes enlarge significantly.

Stage IV: It is the highest risk stage of the four blood cancer stages. At this stage, there is a rapid decrease in platelet count, which causes severe anemia, and cancer begins to affect vital organs.

Causes & Risk Factors of Blood Cancer

The exact causes of blood cancer are unknown. However, some risk factors increase a person's blood cancer risk. These risk factors consist of the following:

Gender: Blood cancer is much more common in men than in women.

Age: Blood cancer increases with age. Acute and chronic myeloid leukemia occurs most often in people older than 65, and acute lymphocytic leukemia occurs in people below 20.

Smoking: It is well-known that smoking can lead to mouth or lung cancer, but it is also strongly associated with other types of cancer, including blood cancer.

Family history: Your chance of developing the disease may be higher if you have relatives diagnosed with leukemia.

Chemical Exposures: Prolonged exposure to certain pesticides or industrial chemicals like benzene can increase blood cancer risk.

Radiation Exposures: Exposure to high-energy radiation and intense exposure to low-energy radiation from electromagnetic fields raises the chance of getting blood cancer.

Previous cancer treatment: People who had chemotherapy and radiation therapy for other cancers also risk developing cancer, such as leukemia.

Blood disorders: Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is more likely to develop in people with certain blood conditions, such as chronic myeloproliferative disorders, including polycythemia vera, idiopathic myelofibrosis, and essential thrombocytopenia.

Congenital syndromes: Some congenital syndromes, like down syndrome, bloom syndrome, seem to raise the risk of blood cancer, including acute myeloid leukemia (AML).

Symptoms of Blood Cancer

The common symptoms of blood cancer are

  • Persistent fever and chills
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Bone and joint pain
  • Night sweats
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck, under arms, or groin
  • Unexplained and sudden weight loss
  • Frequent infections
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea, headaches
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Itching and skin rash
  • Shortness of breath

Blood Cancer Screening

Screening tests are performed when you are healthy and have no signs or symptoms of the disease, and they can aid in the early detection of malignancies so successful treatment can begin. Complete blood count (CBC) and blood protein tests are used in cancer screening and diagnosis. A complete blood count measures three types of blood cells that circulate in your bloodstream, and the findings may aid in the diagnosis of cancer or the detection of cancer spread. Blood protein testing uses a technique known as electrophoresis to identify certain proteins in your blood. Your immune system releases the proteins known as immunoglobulins in response to ailments like myeloma.

Blood Cancer Diagnosis

Various tests can be performed to diagnose blood cancer. These tests for blood cancer include,

  • Medical history and physical examination: Upon noticing any symptoms that might suggest the possibility of blood cancer, your doctor will ask you for your complete medical history and will perform a detailed physical examination to assess the possible risk factors, symptoms, or any other health issue you have.
  • Blood test: A complete blood count (CBC) test is performed to assess the cell count of different blood components, such as platelets and red and white blood cells. Blood chemistry tests measure the level of key substances in your blood.
  • Bone marrow biopsy: It may be performed by medical professionals to determine the percentage of abnormal and normal blood cells in your bone marrow. They might also examine a sample of your bone marrow for DNA alterations that could promote cancer growth.
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan: This test produces three-dimensional images of your soft tissues and bones using a series of X-rays and a computer. If your doctor suspects you have myeloma, they may perform a CT scan to examine for bone damage.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan: Your healthcare provider may order an MRI to look for signs of leukemia or lymphoma complications affecting your spine.
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan: This test produces images of your organs and tissues at work. Your doctor may perform a PET scan to look for signs of myeloma.
  • Blood cell examination: Healthcare providers may take blood samples to look for changes in blood cell appearance. They could look at a peripheral smear test o check for leukemia or lymphoma symptoms.

Blood Cancer Treatment

The doctor may recommend the treatment options depending on the individual's age, type of blood cancer, stage and sub-type of cancer, blood cell counts, and overall health. The major treatment types for blood cancer include stem cell transplant, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapy, and immunotherapy.

Chemotherapy uses anticancer drugs to kill rapidly growing cancer cells in the body. These medications can be taken as pills, or they can be injected into a vein. This treatment for treating blood cancer can be given alone or in combination with other cancer treatments.

Radiation therapy involves using high-energy X-rays or protons to break and damage the DNA of cancer cells. This damage inhibits cancerous cells from proliferating, and the body eliminates cells with damaged DNA. This therapy is used in the treatment of Hodgkin lymphoma or non-Hodgkin lymphoma. It is often combined with chemotherapy treatments.

Targeted therapy specifically identifies and targets cancer cells, and it causes no harm to healthy cells. It is most typically used to treat leukemia. Drugs used in targeted therapy include kinase inhibitors and monoclonal antibodies.

Immunotherapy uses certain medications to enhance our immune system to fight against cancer which may not affect cancer because these cancer cells produce proteins that help them hide from the immune system cell.

Stem cell transplantation is a procedure in which a patient receives healthy stem cells to replace damaged cells. It is otherwise known as a bone marrow transplant.
Two types of stem cell transplant include:

  • Autologous stem cell transplantation uses the patient's healthy blood cells from their own body to replace damaged or diseased bone marrow. It is otherwise called an autologous bone marrow transplant.
  • Allogeneic stem cell transplantation uses healthy blood stem cells from a donor to replace bone marrow which does not make enough healthy blood cells. A donor may be a family member or someone unrelated to the patient.

Blood cancer prognosis:

Blood cancer prognosis depends upon various factors, such as

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Diagnosis
  • Stage of cancer
  • Type of blood cancer
  • Patient's general health and response to the treatment
  • Presence of leukemia cells in your central nervous system
  • Genetic abnormalities or mutations

For various types of blood cancers, the five-year survival rate differs. The survival rates for different blood cancers include:

  • Leukemia: 65 %
  • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma: 73.2 %
  • Hodgkin lymphoma: 88.3 %
  • Myeloma: 55.6 %

Prevention of Blood Cancer

Even Though the cause of blood cancers is not sure, a few risk factors can be avoided to reduce the chance of getting blood cancers. Several blood cancer prevention strategies include:

  • Avoiding exposure to chemicals like benzene
  • Avoid radiation exposure
  • Quit smoking or limit using tobacco in any form
  • Making lifestyle changes
  • Eating a healthy balanced diet
  • Staying physically active

Blood Cancer FAQs

1. How can blood cancer develop?

The main cause of blood cancer is changes (mutations) in the DNA of blood cells, and the blood cells begin to develop abnormally. These changes are genetic defects that can be passed down to offspring because they occur during a person's lifespan.

2. What are my blood cancer treatment options?

Chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, targeted therapy, and stem cell transplantation are the various treatment options for blood cancer.

3. What symptoms might I observe if I have blood cancer?

Fever, chills, fatigue, weakness, bone and joint pain, night sweats, swollen lymph nodes in the neck, underarms, or groin, sudden weight loss, frequent infections, loss
of appetite, nausea, headaches, abdominal discomfort, itching, skin rash and shortness of breath are the symptoms of blood cancer.

4. Who is most likely to get blood cancer?

Blood cancer is more prevalent in men than women and can increase with age. People over the age of 65 are more likely to have blood cancer.

5. Can blood cancer be cured?

Yes, there is a cure for blood cancer. At least 50-60% of blood cancers can be fully treated, while another 20-30% can be transformed into chronic conditions like diabetes or hypertension. The key aspects needed to achieve a cure are early diagnosis and consistently following your doctor's recommendations for treatment.

6. How is my blood cancer diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider may perform the following diagnostic tests to see if you have blood cancer:

  • Complete medical history
  • Physical exam
  • Blood test
  • Bone marrow biopsy
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan

7. What is the most dangerous blood cancer?

Leukemia is the most dangerous type of blood cancer found in blood and bone marrow and is caused by abnormal white blood cells. Many abnormal white blood cells cannot fight infection and impair the bone marrow's ability to create red blood cells and platelets.


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