• What is Blood Cancer Awareness Month?
  • What is Lymphoma?
  • What is Leukaemia?
  • What is Myeloma?
  • What is Essential Thrombocythemia (ET)?
  • What is Polycythaemia Vera (PV)?
  • What is Myelodysplastic Syndromes (MDS)?

  • What is Blood Cancer Awareness Month?

    September is Blood Cancer Awareness Month, presenting an opportunity to raise awareness of the types and symptoms of blood cancers, which can come across vague, unspecified and can be mistaken for common illnesses like flu. Help spread the word and raise awareness by using the campaign hashtag #BeBloodCancerAware or the generic one #BloodCancerAwarenessMonth on Twitter and encourage others to join in.

    As a contribution, we have put together this blog about the different types and symptoms of blood cancers. Types Blood Cancers

    What is Lymphoma?

    Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system. There are two main types - Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The most familiar symptom of Hodgkin lymphoma is a bulge in the neck, under the arm, or around the groin area. It doesn’t normally cause and discomfort, but the area can be painful after consuming alcohol. The bulge can enlarge and develop over time, or other nodules may appear close to it. Hodgkin disease can produce what are referred to as B symptoms:

    • Fever (which can come and go over several days or weeks) minus an infection

    • Night sweats

    • Unexplained weight loss

    • Itching skin

    • Feeling tired and fatigued

    • Significant decrease of appetite

    What is Leukaemia?

    Leukaemia is a cancer of the white blood cells. It is termed according to the variation of white blood cell which is affected and whether it is acute (faster growing) or chronic (slower growing). Around 9,500 are diagnosed with leukaemia each year in the UK. Leukemia is a type of cancer found in your blood and bone marrow and the result of the overdriven creation of abnormal white blood cells. These abnormal white blood cells are unable to fend off infection and distort the ability of the bone marrow to create red blood cells leading to an imbalance. Leukemia can be either acute or chronic. Chronic leukaemia develops at a lesser pace than acute leukaemia, which requires immediate treatment. Leukemia is also classified as lymphocytic or myelogenous. Lymphocytic leukaemia is attributed to abnormal cell growth in the marrow cells that become lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell that has a function in the immune system.

    In myelogenous leukaemia, abnormal cell growth happens in the marrow cells that cultivate into red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. There are four broad classifications of leukaemia: Acute lymphocytic leukaemia (ALL) Acute myelogenous leukaemia (AML) Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) Chronic myelogenous leukaemia (CML) Leukemia can be apparent in both adults and children. ALL is the most frequent type of childhood leukaemia, with following AML is the second most frequent. Years of research have resulted in hugely improved outcomes for children diagnosed with ALL. The two most common adult leukaemias are AML and CLL.

    What is Myeloma?

    Myeloma (also known as multiple myeloma) is a cancer of plasma cells in the bone marrow and doesn’t necessarily produce symptoms in its initial stages, and can show up on a regular blood test. Symptoms occur because there are aberrant plasma cells in your bone marrow. The abnormal plasma cells disturb the bones and replace the normal blood cells with themselves. So you might have too few white cells, red cells and platelets. Abnormal bruising and bleeding can happen because the large numbers of plasma cells in your bone marrow have stopped platelets from being made.

    Bone pain and bone damage Up to 70 out of every 100 people (70%) report experiencing pain at the point of Myeloma diagnosis. People often describe the pain as dull or aching, and it commonly appears in the lower back or ribs. Pain in the bones is due to too many plasma cells residing in a concentrated area of the bone.

    The high volume of plasma cells weaken the bones which can occasionally lead to bone breaks (fractures). Too much calcium in your blood Damaged bones causes calcium to be released into the bloodstream. Excessive calcium in the blood is known as hypercalcemia. This considerably enhances thirst and can make you feel nausea’s and fatigued. Frequently passing more urine is a common symptom, as the body attempts to get rid of the excess calcium. Swollen ankles Your ankles may become swollen due to under functioning Kidneys.

    This is a later symptom of myeloma. The large amounts of antibody protein (immunoglobulin) created by the atypical plasma cells can damage your kidneys as it passes through from the bloodstream to the urine. The antibody protein is called the Bence Jones protein.

    What is Essential Thrombocythemia (ET)?

    Essential thrombocythemia is a relatively unusual disorder in which your body over produces blood platelets and affects the bone marrow which is a source for the creation of our blood cells. This condition may lead you to feel tired, lightheaded and possibly headaches and vision alterations, plus enhancing the risk of blood clots.

    What is Polycythaemia Vera (PV)?

    Cancer Research UK (2017) describes Polycythaemia vera (PV) as “a rare condition that affects the bone marrow. It is also referred to as Erythrocytosis which is the term for too many red blood cells Myelofibrosis (MF)” People with PV regularly do not have any symptoms. Occasionally your spleen may grow in size in an attempt to break down excessive red blood cells. PV can be diagnosed through a variety blood tests, an ultrasound scan or a bone marrow sample.

    This is where a small sample of bone marrow cells is extracted from your back or hip bone. The sample will then be analysed through a microscope by a medical professional. If you have no symptoms, you may not require immediate treatment. If you do have symptoms, the main treatment for PV is venesection. This process scales down the number of red blood cells by taking about a pint of blood from your body. Other treatments include:

    • Chemotherapy

    • Low-dose aspirin

    • Interferon alpha

    • Radioactive phosphorus (32P).

    Upon successful completion of treatment, you will have regular blood tests and check-ups.

    What is Myelodysplastic Syndromes (MDS)?

    Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) are a group of conditions that affect the bone marrow. The bone marrow may not make enough blood cells.

    Normally, the bone marrow produces:

    • Red blood cells to transport oxygen through your body

    • White blood cells to prevent and fight infection

    • Platelets to assist your blood to clot In MDS, your bone marrow fails to produce healthy red blood cells, white blood cells and/or platelets.

    Alternatively, it creates foreign and underdeveloped cells As the condition progresses, your bone marrow gets overloaded with the abnormal blood cells, which overflows into the bloodstream.