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7 Signs of Blood Cancer You Should Pay Attention To

by Louise W. Rice
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Blood cancer, also called hematologic cancer, begins when the body produces blood cells – in the bone marrow. The cause is abnormal blood cells that interfere with normal blood cell production and functioning.

Blood cancer interferes with functions such as blood clotting and fighting infections.

Here are the primary types of blood cancer:

1. Leukemia

Originating in bone marrow and blood, leukemia occurs when increased abnormal white blood cell production interferes with bone marrow production of platelets and red blood cells. The abnormal cells also interfere with the infection-fighting properties of white blood cells.

The most common causes include aging, male gender, smoking, high-dose radiation exposure, other blood cancer history, cancer treatment history, and industrial chemical (benzene) exposure.

Subtypes of leukemia include acute lymphoblastic, acute myeloid, chronic lymphocytic, and chronic myelogenous leukemias. While leukemia is the most common type of blood cancer, its five-year survival rate has quadrupled in the past 4 decades.

The most common leukemia symptoms include anemia, weakness, and fatigue. Other signs include shortness of breath during daily functions and excessive sweating. Weakened immunity leaves one susceptible to illness.

2. Myeloma

With this form, blood cancer begins in the white plasma blood cells in bone marrow. Normal white plasma cells produce antibodies that fight disease and infections. Myeloma prevents antibody production, weakening the body and leaving it susceptible to infections.

The most common causes include aging, male gender, obesity, and race (African Americans have higher risks).

Subtypes include multiple myeloma, amyloidosis, and plasmacytoma. Five years after diagnosis, more than half of the individuals diagnosed with myeloma are still alive.

The most common myeloma symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pain, kidney problems, back pain, and bouts of numbness.

3. Lymphoma

With lymphoma, cancerous cells impair the immune system. The lymphatic system produces crucial immune cells and removes excess fluid from the body. The two most common lymphoma subtypes are:

  • Hodgkin lymphoma: develops from abnormal lymphocytes (Reed-Sternberg cells) in the lymphatic system.

The most common causes include aging, male gender, compromised immune system, Epstein-Barr virus (mononucleosis) history, and family history of Hodgkin lymphoma.

  • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma: develops from immune-fighting white blood cells (lymphocytes) in the lymphatic system.

The most common causes include radiation exposure, chemotherapy history, compromised immune system, autoimmune disease history (including lupus and rheumatoid arthritis), insecticide, herbicide, and industrial chemical exposure.

Other subtypes are B-cell, cutaneous T-cell, follicular, and Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia lymphomas. Survival rates for lymphoma have doubled in the past 4 decades.

The most common symptoms of lymphoma include chest pain, swollen glands, extreme fatigue, cough, or breathlessness.

Several other rare forms of blood cancer can also develop, but these are the most common.

Is There Successful Treatment?

The treatment options depend on the type of blood cancer and may include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, CAR T-cell therapy, and stem cell transplantation. Targeted therapies focus on the mutations or genetic changes that alter healthy cells into abnormal cancer cells.

Other factors influencing treatment include how quickly the cancer progresses and if and where the cancer has spread. The success of the treatment depends on those factors and the individual’s age, health, and treatment response.

Current percentage rates for five-year survival are as follows:

  • Leukemia – 66.7%
  • Myeloma – 59.8%
  • Hodgkin lymphoma – 88.9%
  • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma – 74.3%

7 Signs of Blood Cancer

Along with the seven signs listed below, other symptoms could associated with blood cancer. These include chest pain, coughing, chills, itchy skin, unexplained rashes, nausea, loss of appetite, and shortness of breath.

While there are many warning signs of blood cancer, one way to remember some primary symptoms is through the acronym “T.E.S.T.”

T is for tiredness, feeling fatigued, or lethargic

E is for excessive sweating or perspiration

S is for soreness in the bones and joints

T is for terrible bruising or bleeding

Here are some of the most common signs of blood cancer:

1. Excessive night sweating

Waking up drenched during sleep can be a sign of blood cancer. However, night sweats may also be due to menopause, andropause (Low T), and other hormonal imbalances.

2. Unexplained weight loss

Anything over 10 pounds in six to twelve months is considered unexplained weight loss.

3. Swellings, bruises, and bleeding 

Unusual injuries, such as bruises that do not heal within a couple of weeks or excessive or ongoing bleeding from an injury, could indicate that the immune system cannot heal the body due to blood cancer.

4. Weakness and tiredness

Fatigue or weakness that interferes with daily activities can indicate anemia, often associated with blood cancer.

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5. Bone pain

Leukemia and myeloma can cause tender spots or pain in the bones.

6. Enlarged spleen or liver or swollen lymph nodes

These may be signs of lymphoma or leukemia. Abnormal white blood cells can build up in the armpits, groin, or neck lymph glands.

7. Infections that are persistent, recurrent, or severe

Frequent infections can occur when the body must keep fighting because the immune system is compromised and under attack. Fevers can also indicate the body is fighting an infection or dealing with abnormal cancer cells.

As with any cancer, do not try self-treatment. Get the help of a doctor and pay attention to your health and any warning signs. The sooner you seek testing and treatment, the better your odds of recovery.

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