There are three different types of blood cells in your body: red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Blood cancer interferes with the normal production and functioning of these cells.
Red blood cells are responsible for transporting oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body. Your blood also transports nutrients from the food you eat, carries waste products to your kidneys and liver, and regulates your body temperature.
Blood carries white blood cells and antibodies to fight infection, and platelets to form clots that prevent you from bleeding.
Blood cancers often start in the bone marrow, affecting the stem cells responsible for producing your blood cells. They may affect the lymphatic system so your body is unable to fight infections.
Blood cancers cause uncontrolled or abnormal growth of certain types of blood cells, leading to overcrowding. The production of normal cells becomes affected, and the smooth functioning of our bodies is disrupted.
There are three main types of blood cancers.
Leukemia is a type of blood cancer that causes large numbers of white blood cells to be produced in the bone marrow. This affects the body’s ability to fight infection.
These excessive numbers of leukemic cells can crowd out normal blood cells leading to anemia, bleeding and infections. The abnormal cells can also spread to the lymph nodes and other organs causing swelling and pain.
There are four main types of leukemia, two acute and two chronic.
- Acute lymphocytic leukemia, or ALL
- Acute myelogenous leukemia, or AML
- Chronic lymphocytic leukemia, or CLL
- Chronic myelogenous leukemia, or CML
Lymphocytic means it affects a type of white blood cell called lymphocytes. Myelogenous means that nonlymphocytic cells are affected, such as red blood cells, platelets or granulocytes (a type of white blood cell).
ALL and AML are the most common in children. AML and CML are the most common in adults.
Lymphoma is a type of cancer that affects cells in the lymphatic system. The American Society of Hematology states that about half of all blood cancers are lymphomas.
This blood cancer causes abnormalities in lymphocytes (white blood cells that fight infection), which multiply and affect the ability of the lymphatic system to remove excessive fluids. Lymph nodes become clogged with these cancerous cells and over time, impair your body’s ability to fight infection.
There are two main categories of lymphomas:
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma makes up about 90 percent, and Hodgkin lymphoma makes up about 10 percent, of this type of blood cancer.
Most non-Hodgkin lymphomas affect B cells, and may grow quickly (high-grade) or slowly (low-grade). B cells are lymphocytes produced in the bone marrow that fight infection.
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma may also involve T cells, which are other infection-fighting lymphocytes produced in the thymus gland.
Hodgkin lymphoma typically only affect B cells, affects more men than women, and has a high probability of a cure, according to Medical News Today.
Myeloma is a cancer of plasma cells, which are white blood cells that produce antibodies to fight infection.
Myeloma cells are also produced in the bone marrow so they can interfere with proper production of red blood cells and other white blood cells.
Dysfunctional antibody cells can travel to the kidney and cause kidney damage, or collect in other bones in the body causing pain and bone destruction.
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society states that over 90 percent of people with this form of blood cancer have multiple myeloma, which means that the myeloma has spread to numerous places in the bone marrow through out the body.
Myeloma occurs more often in those over the age of 50, more often in men, and twice as often in African-Americans as in whites, LLS reported.
1) American Society of Hematology. Blood cancers. Retrieved Sept 20, 2015.
Blood Cancers: http://www.hematology.org/Patients/Basics
2) Leukemia - Topic Overview. WebMD. Retrieved Sept. 20, 2015.
3) Lymphoma: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments. Medical News Today.com. Retrieved Sept. 20, 2015.
4) Myeloma. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS). . Retrieved Sept. 20, 2015.
Michele is an R.N. freelance writer with a special interest in woman’s healthcare and quality of care issues.
Edited by Jody Smith