Blood cancer is a type of cancer that begins in blood-forming tissue, such as the bone marrow, or in the cells of the immune system. There are three different types of cells in your blood: white blood cells, which help your body fight infection, red blood cells, which carry oxygen to all parts of your body and platelets, which help your blood clot. Blood cancer can affect any of these cells.
The three most common types of blood cancer are:
- Leukemia: a type of cancer found in your blood and bone marrow, is caused by the rapid production of abnormal white blood cells. The high number of abnormal white blood cells are not able to fight infection, and they impair the ability of the bone marrow to produce red blood cells and platelets.
- Lymphoma: This cancer affects the part of the body that removes excess fluids and produces healthy white blood cells in the body. Lymphoma turns normal white blood cells that fight infection — called lymphocytes — into abnormal lymphoma cells. Over time, these cancerous cells impair your immune system.
- Myeloma: This is a cancer of the plasma cells. Plasma cells are white blood cells that produce disease-fighting 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.
Doctors don’t know what exactly causes blood cancer. It occurs when there are changes in the DNA of the blood cells that prevent them from working properly. It could be linked to genetic and environmental factors. As of right now, there’s no way to prevent the disease from occurring.
Risk factors for blood cancer may or may not play a role in who develops the disease. Many people who develop blood cancer have none of the risk factors. However, studies have shown there are a few things that increase a person’s risk. These include:
- Previous chemotherapy or radiation therapy
- Genetic disorders
- Exposure to toxic chemicals
- Tobacco use
- Family history of blood cancer
Signs & Symptoms
The early signs and symptoms may be like those caused by the flu or other common diseases. Contact your doctor if you have any of the following that don’t go away:
- extreme tiredness (fatigue)
- repeated infections
- unexplained weight loss
- easy bruising and/or bleeding
- drenching night sweats
- itchy skin
- lumps or swellings in your neck, head, groin or stomach
- bone and/or joint pain
Your OHC doctors will work with you to create a treatment plan based on many factors including the type of blood cancer you have. The standard treatments include:
- Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy is one of the most exciting and promising cancer treatment breakthroughs in recent years. OHC is the first in Greater Cincinnati – and among the very few independent oncology groups in the U.S. – to bring this leading-edge therapy to our region for adults with aggressive blood cancers. CAR-T clinical trials have reported dramatic results, with many patients previously considered terminal now in remission with good quality of life demonstrated for up to five years.
CAR-T Therapy is a type of immunotherapy that stimulates the body’s immune system to fight cancer.
- Thousands of T-cells are extracted from the patient and reengineered in a lab to produce special receptors on their surface that fight and kill cancer cells.
- The reengineered cells are multiplied until there are millions and then infused back into the patient.
- The cells continue to then multiply on their own in the patient’s body. These cells will recognize and kill cancer cells, and help guard against recurrence.
- Stem cell transplant is a method of giving chemotherapy and replacing blood-forming cells destroyed by the cancer treatment. Stem cells (immature blood cells) are removed from the blood or bone marrow of the patient or a donor and are frozen and stored. After the chemotherapy is completed, the stored stem cells are thawed and given back to the patient through an infusion. These reinfused stem cells grow into (and restore) the body’s blood cells.
- Chemotherapy uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing.
- Radiation therapy uses high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing.
- Other drug therapy