Leukemia, Lymphoma & Myeloma
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:
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.
Treatment for leukemia typically involves destroying the abnormal cells to allow the healthy cells to grow and flourish—but different types of leukemia (listed below) have their own treatment protocols. Individual treatment decisions are based on the type of leukemia you have, your age and overall health.
- Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL)
- Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)
- Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL)
- Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML)
- Chronic Myelomonocytic Leukemia (CMML)
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 is a type of cancer that affects the plasma cells, inhibiting antibody production and weakening the immune system.
Some common blood cancer symptoms include:
- Abdominal discomfort
- Appetite loss
- Bone/joint pain
- Fatigue and weakness
- Fever, chills
- Frequent infections
- Itchy skin, rashes
- Night sweats
- Shortness of Breath
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck, underarms, groin
- Unexplained weight loss
Diagnosis & 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 Therapy: Blood-forming stem cells, collected from the bone marrow or bloodstream, are introduced to encourage growth of healthy blood cells. Torrance Memorial refers to an affiliated center for this procedure.