Torrance Memorial Lymphoma and Leukemia Program

While most forms of cancer affect your body’s bones and tissues, it’s also possible to have cancer that affects your blood. These cancers typically begin in the bone marrow, where blood is produced, and affect the production and function of blood cells.

Types of Blood Cancers

There are three categories of blood cancers, with subtypes for each. These include:

Leukemia: Found in the blood and bone marrow, leukemia is caused by the rapid production of abnormal white blood cells, which interfere with the ability of the bone marrow to produce other types of blood cells. There are four sub-types of leukemia, which are:

  • Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL)
  • Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML)
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)
  • Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML)

Lymphoma: Accounting for about half of blood cancers diagnosed each year, this type of cancer affects the lymphatic system, which removes excess fluids from your body and produces immune cells. Hodgkin’s lymphoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma are two forms of the disease.

Myeloma: Myeloma is a type of cancer that affects the plasma cells, inhibiting antibody production and weakening the immune system.

Symptoms of Blood Cancers

Some common blood cancer symptoms include:

  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Appetite loss
  • Bone/joint pain
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Fever, chills
  • Frequent infections
  • Headaches
  • Itchy skin, rashes
  • Night sweats
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck, underarms, groin
  • Unexplained weight loss

Blood Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment

Blood cancers present a variety of vague symptoms so diagnosis sometimes happens incidentally. Diagnostic techniques include:

  • A physical exam: Looking for swollen lymph glands, or evidence that your liver or spleen are swollen
  • Blood test: Can detect abnormalities in blood cell counts
  • Urine test: To detect high levels of a certain type of protein associated with blood cancers
  • Bone marrow biopsy: Which can be done through a bone marrow aspiration or a bone needle biopsy

Treatment for will depend on a variety of factors, including the type of cancer you have, how aggressive it is, your age and health status, and so on. Treatments may include:

  • Stem cell transplant: Blood-forming stem cells, collected from the bone marrow or bloodstream, are introduced to encourage growth of healthy blood cells. Torrance Memorial refers out to partnered academic centers in our area.
  • Chemotherapy: Medications interrupt and halt the growth of cancer cells.
  • Radiation: Radiation therapy is sometimes given prior to a stem cell transplant, to destroy cancer cells or to relieve pain or discomfort.

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