When the development of blood cells is impaired, it leads to blood cancer. This leads to improper functioning of the blood cells, and they would not be working in the way required to keep the bodily functions smooth. The cells can also experience abnormal growth. This means the health of the body is in grave danger, as the white blood cells that are responsible for fighting infections and repairing the body cannot work efficiently anymore.
The blood production is taken care of by the bone marrow, and this is where this cancer starts. The blood cells are produced in 3 types. Red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets are the 3 components of the blood. This process is impaired because of the abnormal growth of the cells. The blood cancer is divided into 3 types:
- Leukaemia: Abnormal blood cells are produced in the bone marrow, and the production is rapid. This rapid production disturbs the normal production of the blood cells and the platelets.
- Lymphoma: When the lymphatic system is affected by blood cancer, then it is called lymphoma. The lymphatic system is the one that removes excess fluid from the body, and it is also responsible for the production of the immune cells. Lymphocytes, the white blood cells are the ones that fight the infection. The blood cancer formed here spreads overpoweringly in the lymph nodes, and the tissues surrounding it.
- Myeloma: The plasma cells are where the blood cancer cells rapidly grow. These white cells are responsible for the fighting the diseases by producing the antibodies that fight the diseases. The plasma cells are not produced in the normal way when the blood cancer affects plasma. The entire immune system of the body goes weak as a result.
Blood cancer is often classified into acute and chronic blood cancers:
- Acute cancer is the aggressive and rapid spreading of the cancer cells
- Chronic cancer is where the cancer cells are indolent and spread over slowly and take years to show up.
The tiny building blocks of the body are the cells, and in fact, the human life starts from a single cell in the fetus. The body keeps itself young and energetic by producing new cells. The old ones are destroyed, and this is an everyday process. The coding of the cells is the DNAs. The cell production and destruction process are controlled by the DNA. When there is a gene mutation or DNA mutation, the blood cell can be produced abnormally. Either the cells do not get destructed after the lifetime, or they get produced in abnormal levels.
- Acute myelogenous leukaemia: This is the commonest form of leukaemia. The survival rate when the disease is treated in the first year is 26.9%.
- Acute lymphatic leukaemia: This occurs in children mostly. The five-year survival rate is 68.2%.
- Chronic myelogenous leukaemia: This leukaemia affects adults typically. The five-year survival rate is 66.9%.
- Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia: this affects people of age group 55 years and more. The survival rate in the 5 years is 83.2%.
- Sweating abnormally. Especially, the sweating at nights is higher
- Weakness and fatigue, and this does not go with even with excessive rest
- Weight loss without any efforts to lose weight
- Pain in the bone, and tenderness of the bone
- Lymph nodes are swollen, and they are often devoid of pain
- Liver or spleen in enlarged
- When hurts, bruises and bleeding are common and faster
- Chills and fevers occur often because of the weak immune system
- Infections too are common due to the same reason.
When the cancer cells are spread over the body, the various parts can be affected and the symptoms are intense based on this
- Muscle control loss
Are common when the central nervous system is affected due to cancer.
Lungs, kidneys, testes, heart and the gastrointestinal tracts are affected by this form of cancer.
The exact causes of leukaemia are not known. But there are several risk factors responsible for the same.
- When there is a family history of leukaemia, chances of developing the disease are higher
- Smoking increases the risk of acute myeloid leukaemia
- Down syndrome can lead to leukaemia
- Myelodysplastic symptoms and other blood disorders are the reasons for leukaemia
- When exposed to higher levels of radiation, the tumour cells can grow rapidly
- Chemical exposure too can lead to leukaemia, and a fine example is an exposure to benzene.
Usually, the physical examination and complete medical history are how the doctors begin. The chronic infections, chills and fevers are often taken into account to check if the immune system has been damaged by the rapid growth of cancer cells.
- A blood count test is how the tests begin. The complete count of RBC, WBC and platelets is tested. The abnormal appearance of the blood is seen through the microscope.
- The tissue from the bone marrow and lymph nodes are taken as the biopsies to check for the existence of the cancer cells.
- Biopsies of the liver and spleen are also taken to check about the existing cancer cells in the various organs.
- The progress is assessed with various tests. the growth rate of the cancer cells is examined with the flow cytometry, and this examines the DNA.
- Liver function tests are done to find how the leukaemia cells are affecting the liver.
- Lumbar puncture is to check the spread of cancer to the central nervous system. This is carried out by inserting a thin needle into the vertebrae in the lower back.
- Ultrasounds, CT scans and X rays are also done to find the organs that are damaged by leukaemia.
- Chemotherapy : Drugs are used to treat leukaemia. These drugs are potent enough to kill the cancer cells. A single drug or combination of drugs is used. This is based on the severity of the disease and the specific case of the individual patient.
- Radiation therapy : Radiation of intense energy is used to kill the leukaemia cells. This helps in impeding the growth of the cancer cells. The benefit of radiation therapy is that the radiation can be used on any specific part of the body. This can also be applied to the entire body. However, there can be few side effects that include loss of hair and fatigue. But these go away a couple of months after the treatment is over.
- Stem cell transplantation : The bone marrow where the cancer cells have grown can be removed and a healthy bone marrow can be set up. Known as autologous transplantation, this procedure involves getting bone marrow from self. In allologous transplantation, the bone marrow is transferred from a donor.
- Immune therapy : This treatment helps in boosting the immune system to identify the cancer cells and destroy them.
- Targeted therapy : This therapy works by outdoing the cancer cells by finding the vulnerabilities in the cancer cells.
This is the most aggressive type of leukaemia. The worst part about this type of cancer is that it takes a few weeks to develop, and over a few weeks, it can develop faster. Symptoms include:
- Frequent bleeding, in gums or nosebleeds
- Pale skin
The seriousness of AML is that it can become life-threatening in a very short period of time, and if the affected does not seek medical advice earlier, or if the diagnosis does not happen at the right time, the complications are severe.
AML occurs in the stem cells found in the bone marrow. This results in the immature production of numerous WBC. These are called blast cells, and when they are in high numbers, red blood cells are not produced sufficiently. Also, these blast cells are not competent enough to fight the diseases and infections. There are several reasons how the risk can be developed, but the exact causes are not known still.
- Radiotherapy and chemotherapy treatment
- High levels of radiation exposure can increase the risk factor
- Benzene exposure. This ingredient is also found in the cigarette smoke
- Down syndrome
The diagnosis for AML involves the same tests as for other types of blood cancer.
- CT scan, X rays and ultrasound tests are done to find the level of cancer in various parts
- Blood test
A number of complications can be experienced due to AML.
Weakened immune system: The most common complication of the AML is the weakened immune system. During the treatment, the normal condition is restored. Still, the immune system is weak during this period and takes time to get normalized. In most cases, the mortality rate is higher due to the infections. The infections can be treated early, and appropriate treatment can control the complications.
The treatment includes:
- Antibiotics are prescribed regularly, and this is effective to control the bacterial infections
- Personal and dental hygiene should be maintained
- If affected by AML, it is essential to keep off from people affected by infections. The immune system is weaned cannot stand the pre-immune diseases like measles.
- Check if there are any vaccinations due. It is better to be safe than sorry. Measles, MMR vaccine, mumps and rubella, are few diseases that can be prevented with vaccinations and mandatory to go for with a weak immune system.
- When infections occur, the symptoms include diarrhoea, tiredness, muscle aches, and headache.
Easily one can get affected with bruises and bleed if AML is present.
Excessive internal bleeding can lead to life-threatening conditions. This is one of the common causes of death in people affected by AML. The bleeding can occur inside the skull, and the symptoms can include a headache and vomiting. Confusion is also on the cards.
When bleeding occurs in the lungs, it is called pulmonary haemorrhage, and it can cause symptoms that include blush skin tone, difficulty in breathing, and coughing with blood.
When gastrointestinal haemorrhage happens, or in other words, internal bleeding in the abdomen, blood in the stool, and tar coloured blood can be seen.
These are all medical emergencies, and without medical intervention, the survival rate can be considered nil in these fatal conditions.
The treatment methods for AML can lead to infertility. The good news is that they are temporary. In a few cases, this can be permanent. When high doses of chemotherapy and radiotherapy are given, permanent infertility can happen. The risk of infertility rate is told in advance to the affected by the team of doctors. Medical advancements can, however, help in following a few counteractions. In men, the semen samples can be stored, and in women, eggs or the fertilized embryos are stored. After the treatment, the embryos or the eggs can be placed back into the womb. One of the pitfalls is that the AML is a condition that develops rapidly. So, in most of the cases, this procedure cannot be followed because there is no time left.
With no exact cause for the blood cancer known, it is not easy to prevent the disease. But staying away from the risk factors itself can help in reducing the risk percentage.
- Tobacco usage should be quit: Smoking is often linked to various types of cancer. It can lead to cancer cells grown in the lungs, larynx, mouth and pancreas. Passive smoking can also same results are in smoking.
- Healthy diet: Taking a diet that is full of fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains help a lot in keeping one sturdy against a wide range of diseases.
- Obesity: Physical activities help a lot in controlling obesity. Lowering the risk can be done by maintaining a healthy weight.
- Keep away from the sun: Staying in shade and avoiding the midday sun. Using the ways to keep off from the sun like glasses and hats help. However, do not put lots of sunscreens to stay off from rays of the sun.
- Staying off from various risky behaviours, like safe sex, and keeping off from sharing the needles, can help in preventing infections.
Regular health checkups can help in identifying the onset of the disease and help in staying off from the risks and complications associated.
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