Blood Cancer Symptoms

Blood cancers are also known as hematologic cancers. It occurs in the bone marrow, the production house of blood. Blood cancer may occur due to the growth of abnormal blood cells in our body. They tend to interrupt with the bodily function and normal blood cells which are responsible for producing new blood cells and fight off any infection. Therefore, blood cancers affect the bone marrow and blood cells. The abnormal cells are cancerous and lead to excessive reproduction of white blood cells. 


The Symptoms of Blood Cancer

There are multiple signs and symptoms of blood cancer. These depend on the type of blood cancer a patient is experiencing. Many people do not feel the symptoms until the disease reaches in its advanced stage. Occasionally the symptoms can also be mistaken as signs of severe flu or cold. The overall symptoms include:

  • Fever or chills

  • Night sweats

  • Frequent infections

  • Coughing or chest pain

  • Itchy skin or rash

  • Shortness of breath 

  • Loss of appetite or nausea

  • Swollen armpits, groin and painless lymph nodes in the neck


Types of Blood Cancer

There are three types of blood cancers. These are – 

Leukaemia – Leukaemia is a kind of cancer that is commonly found in bone marrow and blood. It is caused when the rapid production of abnormal white blood cells gets initiated. These white blood cells are unable to fight the infection and thus, impair the ability of bone marrow for further production of healthy red blood cells and platelets. 


Myeloma – it is a form of cancer that is caused in the plasma cells. Plasma cells are actually white blood cells that produce antibodies which are responsible for fighting infection and diseases in the body. The normal production of these antibodies is hampered by Myeloma cells. This weakens the immune system, and hence, the body becomes susceptible to infection.


Lymphoma – This is a blood cancer that affects the lymphatic system of our body. The system is responsible for removing the excess fluids from the body and produce immune cells. A lymphocyte is a kind of white blood cells that helps in fighting infection. Some of these lymphocytes become abnormal and forms lymphoma cells. Later, they start multiplying in the lymph nodes and other tissues. Over time, the cancerous cells impair the immune system. 


As per the recent study, there have been more than 100 types of blood cancers recognized. Treatments for these vary based on active surveillance apart from cancer-directed therapy and standard treatments like targeted agents, chemotherapies and immunotherapies. Therefore, it is important to have an accurate diagnosis before deciding on the treatment.


Staging of Blood Cancer

At first, several tests will be conducted to determine the type and stage of blood cancer. With the staging process, it is possible to discern the severity and spread of cancer. Staging is often paired with the proper diagnosis. Some of the procedures and tests for diagnosing blood cancer are:

  • The exam of Bone marrow

  • Physical exam

  • Blood tests

  • Test of Diagnostic imaging – PET scan, X-Ray and CT scan

  • Removal of Surgical lymph node 


Staging helps every member of the caregiving team know the location, spread and type of particular cancer. This system must be consistent, and cancers tend to affect organs, including other tissues.


What are The Causes of Blood Cancer?

Blood cancers are caused by changes, or technically, due to mutations in DNA of the blood cells. The abnormal behaviour of the blood cells is caused due to mutation. In most cases, these changes are often linked to certain uncontrollable factors. It can happen anytime in a person's life, and they are genetic faults which have the risk of passing down to children. Although it still unknown why a person develops blood cancer. However, there are certain things which link the probability of this fatal disease. These are:

  • Ethnicity

  • Sex

  • Family history

  • Age

  • Some specific health conditions and treatments

  • Radiation of chemical exposure


Is It Possible To Reduce The Risk of Blood Cancer?

Lifestyle factors like daily exercising and diet have very little impact on the risk of developing blood cancer. However, following a healthy lifestyle can certainly reduce the chances of developing symptoms.


Explanation of Blood Cancer and its Formation

Our body is made from trillions of cells, and they form exceptional building blocks. Our body and even the blood are made up of cells. The cells in our body are on constantly facing death and again getting replaced by new ones. This is the process through which our body grows and repairs. Usually, cells get divided (split) in a controlled manner to come up with new cells whenever required. The development of cells, their behaviour and death rate is controlled by a substance in our blood, called DNA. Complications with DNA or improper function cause the blood cells to go abnormal and stops further development. They don't die, multiply or divide when they should, and this causes the formation of blood cancer. After a certain stage, these abnormal blood cells keep multiplying and outnumber the healthy ones which are properly functioning. This stops the body from staying healthy, especially when it comes to fighting infections and repairing the damage.


Types of General Treatment Available to Cure Blood Cancer

As you know, the treatment process is determined based on the type of blood cancer a patient has. However, the general treatment process includes:


Wait and watch

Some people might not need treatment straight away, and some don't even need. If a blood cancer is in the slow-growing process, the doctor usually recommends to wait and watch, process. In this process, the patient is kept under regular check-ups, monitoring and blood tests. No active treatment is required at the moment. However, this doesn't mean that the patient can't be treated. This process opts when the doctor believes that there is no reason to implement a treatment process. This treatment is the best process until the patient experiencing any harmful or troublesome symptom.


Chemotherapy

The treatment process of chemotherapy includes drugs that kill or destroys the cancerous cells. This treatment process is often given directly into the vein. This is done so that the drug travels throughout the body within the nervous system and kill the cancer cells. This is known as intravenous chemotherapy. It is known to have an infusion or drip. In most cases, chemotherapy comes in a bag of fluid attached to a tube. This tube goes in the vein, inserted from hand, chest or arm. Receiving chemotherapy in this way requires several hours, sometimes reaching to more than a day. Most patients receive chemotherapy as an outpatient, which means they come to the hospital to receive the treatment and go back to home after the process is done. 


Conclusion

The risk factor for blood cancer is still unknown and not fully understood. However, completely on the belief, it is considered that formation of this fatal disease develops from the combination of environmental and genetic factors.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What are Blood Cancer symptoms?

Development of symptoms is based on the type of blood cancer a patient has. There are different types of Blood cancer symptoms recognized to date. In usual cases, the symptoms include:

  • Fever or chills

  • Night sweats

  • Frequent infections

  • Coughing or chest pain

  • Itchy skin or rash

  • Shortness of breath 

  • Loss of appetite or nausea

  • Swollen armpits, groin and painless lymph nodes in the neck


Many people do not feel the presence of it, till the disease reaches its advanced stage of blood cancer. There are times when the symptoms are mistaken as a sign of common cold or flu. 

2. What are Leukemia symptoms?

Most types of leukaemia show no obvious sign of symptom development in its early stage. The Leukemia symptoms develop eventually to experience the following situations:

  • The tendency of bruised or bleeding easily, including gums, nose, blood in stool or urine

  • Anaemia and other symptoms like pallor, fatigue and a general feeling of illness

  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck, groin and armpits

  • Susceptibility to infections like bronchial pneumonia, sore throat, immense headache, mouth sores, low-grade fever or skin rash

  • Experiencing discomfort under the lower ribs on the left side causing a swollen spleen

  • Loss of weight and appetite

  • High white blood cell counts

3. What are the reasons for Blood Cancer?

Blood cancer is caused due to mutation in white blood cells. Unnatural behaviour or functionality in DNA triggers the mutation and thus, leads some white blood cells to go abnormal and therefore, to stop further development. This action causes untimely split and continues multiplying rather than dying after a certain time. This leads to the formation of blood cancer. The situation may turn worse when these cells outnumber the healthy red blood cells which are responsible for healthy functioning of the body.

4. What are the late effects?

Some people enjoy healthy and happy lives after completion of successful treatment. However, sometimes the treatment can cause severe effects in a person's life-extending till months or even years. Some post-treatment side effects are not evident even after years of treatment. These are known as late effects. Treatment with radiotherapy or chemotherapy has higher risks of forming side effects like myelodysplastic syndrome and other secondary cancers, including melanoma and leukaemia (a form of skin cancer).