World Blood Cancer Day 2021: Types, Symptoms, Causes And Treatment For Blood Cancer
World Blood Cancer Day tries to create awareness about this cancer type. On this day, here's all you need to know about blood cancer.
World Blood Cancer Day is observed on 28 May every year
- May 28 is observed as World Blood Cancer Day
- Blood cancer occurs when there is unusual or abnormal production of WBCs
- There are different types of blood cancers
The past decade has seen a slow yet steady increase in the number of blood cancer cases in India. According to Globocon 2020, nearly 20,000 cases of childhood blood cancer are diagnosed every year, leukaemia being the most common type, contributing up to 15,000 cases. In fact, India ranks third after the US and China in reporting blood cancer cases, making it a growing health burden for the nation.
What is blood cancer? Symptoms, causes, treatment and more
Blood plays an important role in the overall functioning of the body, supplying oxygen, nutrients, oxygen, antibodies and hormones to different organs. Blood makes up to 8% of total body weight and primarily comprises two components including
- Plasma-the liquid that transports cells, nutrients, waste, and so on
- Cells- red blood cells (RBCs), white blood cells (WBCs) and platelets
Blood cancer occurs when there is unusual or abnormal production of WBCs in the body. This cancer usually originates in the bone marrow where blood production takes place. This type of cancer interferes with the normal functioning, growth, and development of blood cells that are involved in fighting infection and producing healthy blood cells.
Types of blood cancer
There are primarily three types of blood cancer including lymphoma, leukaemia and myeloma and are characterised by the specific components of blood that it affects. Lymphoma is most commonly diagnosed in the age group of 15 to 35 or over 50. It is the cancer of the lymphatic system and the lymph nodes and particularly affects a type of white blood cells, called lymphocytes. Clinically, Hodgkin's lymphoma is the most common and affects more than 50% of adults diagnosed with blood cancer.
Leukaemia on the other hand is a type of cancer that affects all white blood cells and prevents them from carrying out their main function-fighting off infections. It can be slow-growing (chronic) or acute (fast-growing) and usually affects younger children below the age of 15 years.
Myeloma is a type of cancer affecting the plasma, which is also a type of white blood cells that produce antibodies to ward off infections. This cancer makes the immune system weak and susceptible to infections.
Signs and symptoms of blood cancer
Some common symptoms of blood cancer include enlargement of the lymph node, weight loss, bleeding of gums, bone and joint ache, fever, abdominal pain, night sweats, and fatigue.
What Causes Blood Cancer?
The causes of blood cancer are not completely known but experts believe that genetic and environmental factors play a key role. However, there are certain factors that may increase the risk of developing the disease.
- Age: Aging can be a risk factor. For instance, the risk of leukaemia increase with age.
- Lifestyle: Smoking may not cause the disease but it can increase the risk.
- Exposure to radiation or hazardous chemicals: Exposure to certain types of radiation-electromagnetic fields or chemicals including pesticides can also lead to the growth of cancerous cells.
- Family History: An individual may be at a higher risk if there is a family history of leukaemia. Also, certain blood disorders such as myelodysplastic syndrome can also increase the chances of developing leukaemia.
Treatment of Blood Cancer
The treatment for the disease can depend on various factors such as the type and stage of cancer, age, the spread of cancer, and so on. Some of the opted treatments include:
- Chemotherapy: It involves the administration of anti-cancer drugs into the body via injection or through a pill to target cancerous cells and destroy them.
- Radiation therapy: It utilizes high-energy rays to destroy cancer cells.
- Targeted therapy: This therapy uses drugs that target only cancer cells without harming normal cells and is most commonly used to treat leukaemia.
- Surgery: It may involve the removal of affected lymph nodes to treat lymphoma.
- Immunotherapy: In this treatment option, the immune system is activated to kill only specific cancer cells.
- Stem cell transplantation: In a stem cell transplant, healthy blood-forming stem cells extracted from peripheral blood, bone marrow, or umbilical cord blood are infused into the body to help in the production of healthy blood cells. Cord blood stem cell transplants may prove useful for certain patients due to rapid availability and reduced risk of post-transplant complications or infectious diseases. Moreover, cord blood transplants do not require as close a match between the donor and recipient as for bone marrow or peripheral blood transplants. The parents can choose to preserve their baby's cord blood stem cells extracted immediately after birth for future use with a community stem cell bank or a private bank while considering factors such as coverage, cost, and benefits to the family.
On this day, show your support to the people living with this disease and help raise awareness on the detection, monitoring, and treatment options available to fight blood cancer.
(Dr. Pritesh Junagade is a hemato-oncologist, transplant physician and director at Lotus Hospital)
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