Blood Cancer Overview

Blood cancer or leukemia is a cancerous condition affecting the blood cells. It is the commonest type of malignancy seen in children.

Causes of Blood Cancer

Research states that there is no explicit cause for blood cancer. However, significant risk factors for the development of blood cancer symptoms include:

Genetic predilection for the disease
Chemotherapy treatment
Exposure to large amounts of radiation and toxic chemicals
Smoking

Blood Cancer Symptoms

The following are commonly seen blood cancer symptoms:

Exhaustion and weakness
Bruising of the skin
Bleeding from the gums / rectum.
Abnormal bleeding
Poor stamina
Diminished appetite
Weight reduction
Recurring infections
Abdominal pain
Joint pains
Enlarged spleen and liver
Headaches
Lymph nodes in the neck, groin and armpit swell.
Chronic type of blood cancer may not produce any blood cancer symptoms, until much later. Almost 1 in 5 patients have blood cancer symptoms at the time of diagnosis

Blood Cancer Treatment

The principal purpose of the treatment of blood cancer is to obliterate all the cancerous cells from the body, and help in the formation of normal cell in the bone marrow.
Treatment depends on: the type of blood cancer, the stage of the disease, age and health condition of the patient.

Surgery

Surgery does not play a vital part in the management of blood cancer, because, the disease is extensive. Splenectomy or surgical removal of the spleen is a surgical intervention that may be carried out. Spleenectomy improves blood cancer symptoms as well as the blood profiles, especially, in patients having chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy is commonly used to manage leukemia. Radiation therapy is given to one section of the body or the full body. It prevents spreading of the disease. What�s more, radiotherapy helps minimize swollen lymph nodes, and readies the body for bone marrow transplant.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy has 3 phases:

Induction: aids in achieving remission of the disease. During remission, the leukemia cells are annihilated and substituted with healthy cells. Strong drugs, in high doses are administered for ten days.
Consolidation: consolidation helps kill any cells that may have remained behind. Drugs given during the induction stage are given again, but the dose and the shedule are different.
Maintenance: this stage of the chemotherapy checks recurrences. Maintenance phase comprises of administration of lower doses of drugs for about 4 years. At times, bone marrow transplant may be conducted during this phase of the treatment.

Stem cell transplants

Transplants used for blood cancer treatment could either be autologous, (i.e. the stem cells are collected from the same body), or allogeneic, (i.e. the stem cells are donated by another person). Transplant eradicates all the cells in the bone marrow, and substitutes them with healthy, normal cells.