Blood Cancer: Importance Of Timely Diagnosis, As Told By An Expert
Blood cancer: Early diagnosis can enable early treatment and improved survival in patients significantly. The condition causes symptoms like weakness, fatigue, shortness of breath and fracture even with minimum strain.
Bone marrow examination is done to diagnose blood cancers
- Blood cancer affects the formation and function of blood cells
- This kind of cancer does not show any symptoms until a later stage
- Different kinds of blood cancer affect different kinds of blood cells
Blood cancer is a common type of cancer and should be diagnosed early for a better treatment outcome. However, in many cases, cancer does not show any symptoms until progression to later stages due to the similarity of the condition to other illnesses. Early diagnosis is possible by spreading awareness. Blood cancer, as the name suggests, is the cancer of blood-forming tissues. It affects the formation and function of blood cells such as the red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. There are several different types of blood cancer depending upon the type of blood cells it affects primarily.
The most common types of blood cancers include
- Hodgkin And Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma: These originate in the lymphatic system from a cell known as lymphocytes.
- Leukaemia: It produces too many white blood cells and reduces the production of red blood cells and platelets by the bone marrow.
- Multiple Myeloma: It originates in the blood's plasma cells.
How to spot blood cancer early?
An early diagnosis can enable early treatment and improved survival in patients significantly. Though the symptoms of blood cancer may vary widely from person to person, the most common symptoms include
- Generalised weakness, fatigue and malaise
- Unexplained loss of appetite and weight loss
- Easy bruising and bleeding gums
- Night sweating
- Shortness of breath
- Swellings in the neck, armpit, or other areas due to Lymph node enlargement
- Abdominal distension due to organ enlargement
- Fracture even with minimum strain
How is the diagnosis established?
The diagnosis of cancer involves patient history, physical examination, blood tests and imaging techniques.
- Initially, doctors take history and conduct a thorough physical examination of the patient.
- Blood tests may include complete blood count with peripheral smear and biochemical evaluations of liver and kidney function tests.
- Bone marrow examination is done to diagnose blood cancers. It is a simple outpatient test where bone marrow samples are obtained by marrow aspiration and biopsy.
- Lymph node or tissue biopsy- Surgical lymph node removal termed excision biopsy, or core biopsies collecting small pieces of the lymph node may be done to establish the diagnosis of the blood cancer.
- Diagnostic imaging tests such as CT scan, PET scan, MRI, and/or X-rays may be performed to assess the extent of the disease at diagnosis, termed pre-treatment staging and later for assessing response after treatment.
Also read: 8 Ways You Can Cut Your Risk Of Colon Cancer
What are the various treatment options for blood cancer?
There are several treatment options for blood cancer. The type of treatment depends upon the type and stage of blood cancer, age of the patients and the presence of other medical conditions. Blood cancers are managed by specialists known as Hemato-oncologists. Management of blood cancer generally includes chemotherapy, radiation therapy, bone marrow transplantation, and immunotherapy. Bone marrow transplantation, when successful, offers a new lease of life to the majority of blood cancer patients.
(Dr Mallikarjun Kalashetty, Consultant - Haematology, Haemato Oncology and Bone Marrow Transplantation, Manipal Hospitals Old Airport Road, Bengaluru)
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