Archive for the ‘Blood cancer’ Category

Symptoms of Leukaemia

Friday, August 11th, 2006

bloodThe symptoms of leukaemia vary greatly, depending on the exact type of disease and how advanced it is. Few or no symptoms may occur in the early stages, especially in people with chronic leukaemia. Many symptoms are vague, such as fever, headaches, weight loss and night sweats. 

Symptoms of leukaemia may include:

  • tiredness, breathlessness and pale skin (due to anaemia, a reduction in number of red cells in the blood)
  • frequent infections that do not get better (due to reduction in white blood cells, which fight infection)
  • abnormal bleeding from gums and cuts (due to a reduction in platelets which are important for normal blood clotting)
  • increased bruising (due to platelet reduction)
  • heavier periods in women (due to platelet reduction)
  • nosebleeds (due to platelet reduction)
  • abdominal pain, due to an enlarged spleen or liver
  • swollen lymph glands (glands in the neck, groin and under the arms)
  • bone pain, due to the pressure of cell build-up
  • swollen gums, and occasionally, swollen testicles

About leukaemia

Friday, August 11th, 2006

White blood cells are produced by the bone marrow, the soft spongy centre of bones. They then pass from the bone marrow into the blood stream and lymph system. White blood cells are involved in various functions of the immune system (the body’s defence system), which protects the body from infections. In leukaemia, some blood cells do not grow properly, but remain within the bone marrow and continue to reproduce in an uncontrolled way. These cells fill up the bone marrow and prevent it from making healthy white blood cells. This means the body is less able to fight off infections. 

The bone marrow is also able to make other types of blood cells, such as red blood cells and platelets. Problems can result from a reduction in number of these cells. For example, a lack of red blood cells leads to anaemia, which can result in breathlessness and fatigue. A lack of platelets can lead to problems with the blood-clotting system, resulting in bruising.

Leukaemia is the most common cancer in children, but cancer is generally rare in children, and leukaemia affects nine times as many adults as children.

Blood cancers – The Blood and Lymphatic Systems

Friday, August 11th, 2006

red-blood-cancer-cellsThe Blood and Lymphatic Systems

The three types of blood cancers all involve an uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells within the blood and bone marrow. To understand what happens in blood cancer, it helps to know a little about the blood and lymphatic systems. 

Blood carries oxygen and nutrients to all organs of the body, helps in healing and fights viruses, bacteria and other foreign material in the body. Blood is composed of:

  • Plasma, the watery, yellowish fluid in which the blood cells are suspended and move through veins and arteries of the body
  • Red blood cells, which contain hemoglobin, a body protein that carries oxygen to body tissues
  • Platelets, the smallest cells that are responsible for clotting
  • White blood cells (leukocytes), which protect the body from disease and infection

There are five main types of white blood cells, including lymphocytes. Lymphomas arise from lymphocytes, which are made in the lymph tissue, including the lymph glands, spleen, thymus, tonsils and bone marrow. Lymphocytes make up about 25% of all white blood cells. The number of lymphocytes circulating in the blood varies and can go either up or down when the body is fighting infection.

Lymph nodes are found along the lymphatic system, a network of thin tubes, similar to blood vessels, which branch into all parts of the body. The major external node clusters occur in the neck, armpit and groin. Lymph nodes become enlarged when you have a disease or infection. For instance, the lymph nodes in your neck may become swollen when you have a cold. Swollen lymph nodes often are not a sign of a serious problem, but this also is a symptom of lymphoma.

Leukemia and multiple myeloma may not result in swollen lymph nodes.

Leukemia usually starts in the bone marrow. Myeloma originates from a cell line called plasma cells, which are formed in bone marrow.

Responses to treatment and survival rates for each of these cancers also vary greatly.

The risk of developing blood cancers generally increases with age. Males are more susceptible than females. Because its exact cause hasn’t been discovered, there are no specific recommendations to prevent blood cancer, but you can follow general guidelines. Exposure to excessive radiation and hazardous chemicals should be limited. Studies show that benzene (found in unleaded gasoline), asbestos and pesticides may increase the risk of some blood cancers. When coming in close physical contact with benzene or other hazardous chemicals, take precautions by wearing protective clothing and gloves.

Blood cancer – overview

Friday, August 11th, 2006

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.