Blood cancer – overview

The major forms of blood cancer are lymphoma, leukemia and multiple myeloma. These cancers are formed either in the bone marrow or the lymphatic tissues of the body. They affect the way your body makes blood and provides immunity from other diseases.

Overall survival rates for people with blood cancer have doubled in the past 30 years because of more effective radiation and chemotherapy treatments. In 1960, only 4% of children diagnosed with childhood leukemia survived. Today, 79% are expected to live if they receive the best treatment available. Still, leukemia is the leading cause of death by disease in children.

Adults are more likely than children to get blood cancer, since the risk increases with age. In 2005, it was estimated that about 114,000 Americans were diagnosed with one of the blood cancers, and about 54,000 died of the disease. Lymphomas account for approximately 55% of new cases, leukemia about 28%, and myeloma about 14%. Less common forms of blood cancers account for about 3% of cases.

The actual causes of blood cancer are still unknown. Scientists are trying to identify when and why the body starts producing abnormal cells and how those cells begin invading the body’s blood system. As these questions are answered, the information is used to improve prevention and treatment options.

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