What you need to know about blood cancer

Blood cancer

Blood cancer is an umbrella term for cancers that affect the blood, bone marrow and lymphatic system. Blood cancers, or hematologic cancers, affect the production and function of blood cells.

Most of these cancers start in the bone marrow where blood is produced.

Types of blood cancers

There are three main types of blood cancers. They include:

1. Leukemia


This is a type of cancer found in your blood and bone marrow, is caused by the rapid production of abnormal white blood cells. These cells are not able to fight infection, and they impair the ability of the bone marrow to produce red blood cells and platelets.

Symptoms include:

  • Pain in the bones or joints
  • Swollen lymph nodes that usually don’t hurt
  • Fevers or night sweats
  • Feeling weak or tired
  • Bleeding and bruising easily
  • Frequent infections
  • Discomfort or swelling in the abdomen
  • Weight loss or loss of appetite

2. Lymphoma


This is a type of blood cancer that affects the lymphatic system, which removes excess fluids from your body and produces immune cells.

Lymphocytes are a type of white blood cell that fights infection. Abnormal lymphocytes become lymphoma cells, which multiply and collect in your lymph nodes and other tissues. Over time, these cancerous cells impair your immune system.

There are two main types:

  1. Hodgkin lymphoma – cells in the lymphatic system grow abnormally and may spread beyond it.
  2. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma – is a group of blood cancers that includes all types of lymphoma except Hodgkin’s lymphomas

The main difference between Hodgkin’s lymphoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is in the specific lymphocyte each involves.

Symptoms include:

  • Chills/temperature swings
  • Fevers (especially at night)
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unusual tiredness/lack of energy
  • Persistent coughing
  • Breathlessness
  • Persistent itch all over the body without an apparent cause or rash
  • General fatigue
  • Enlarged tonsils
  • Headache

 3. Myeloma

Multiple myloma

This is also known as multiple myeloma. It is a cancer of the plasma cells.

Plasma cells are white blood cells that produce disease- and infection-fighting antibodies in your body. Myeloma cells prevent the normal production of antibodies, leaving your body’s immune system weakened and susceptible to infection.

Symptoms include:

  • anaemia
  • bone pain and tenderness
  • bone fractures
  • kidney damage
  • Too much calcium in the blood (hypercalcemia)
  • nerve damage
  • skin lesions
  • enlarged tongue


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