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Blood Cancer Treatment

Most blood cancers, also called hematologic cancers, start in the bone marrow, where blood cells are produced. Blood cancers occur when abnormal blood cells grow out of control, interfering with the function of normal blood cells, which fight off infection and produce new blood cells. Blood cancer can affect individuals of all ages and can have various causes, including genetic factors, exposure to certain chemicals or radiation, and sometimes it may occur without a clear cause.

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About Blood Cancer

Blood cancer is a type of cancer that affects the blood cells or bone marrow. It is caused by changes in the DNA of blood cells, which causes them to grow uncontrollably. 

Blood cancer is characterized by its impact on different types of blood cells:

  • Leukemia: This type of blood cancer primarily affects the white blood cells. Leukemic cells multiply uncontrollably and interfere with the production of normal white blood cells, affecting the body's ability to fight infections.
  • Lymphoma: Lymphomas affect the lymphatic system, which is responsible for maintaining the body's immune defenses. They can be categorized as Hodgkin's lymphoma or non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and they involve the lymph nodes and other lymphatic tissues.
  • Myeloma: Myeloma primarily impacts the plasma cells in the bone marrow, leading to the overproduction of abnormal antibodies. This condition weakens bones and impairs the immune system.

Symptoms And Causes of Blood Cancer Treatment

The symptoms experienced during blood cancer treatment can be challenging, but they are essential indicators of progress and side effects management. Here are eight crucial points about the symptoms of blood cancer treatment:

Fatigue: Fatigue is a common and persistent symptom during blood cancer treatment. Chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and other treatments can affect healthy blood cells, leading to profound tiredness. It's crucial to communicate fatigue levels with your healthcare team for proper management.

  • Nausea and Vomiting: Chemotherapy often causes nausea and vomiting. Medications can help alleviate these symptoms, but it's important to report their severity to your medical team to adjust the treatment accordingly.
  • Hair Loss: Some cancer treatments can result in hair loss. While not all treatments cause hair loss, it can be emotionally challenging. Patients are encouraged to explore options such as wigs, scarves, or embracing their natural appearance.
  • Weakened Immune System: Blood cancer treatments can suppress the immune system, increasing the risk of infections. Symptoms of infections, such as fever or persistent cough, should be reported promptly.
  • Bruising and Bleeding: Blood cancer treatment can affect the blood's ability to clot, leading to easy bruising and prolonged bleeding. Any unusual or severe bleeding should be discussed with your medical team.
  • Anemia: Treatments may lead to a decrease in red blood cells, causing anemia. Symptoms may include weakness, paleness, and shortness of breath. Anemia can be managed with medications or blood transfusions.
  • Mouth and Throat Issues: Some treatments may result in mouth sores, dry mouth, or difficulty swallowing. Good oral hygiene and consulting with a dentist or oral specialist can help manage these symptoms.
  • Gastrointestinal Symptoms: Diarrhea, constipation, and changes in appetite are possible side effects of blood cancer treatment. Staying hydrated and maintaining a balanced diet can be important for symptom management.

Blood Cancer Treatment Options

Blood cancers encompass a diverse group of diseases, including leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma. Effective treatment approaches are crucial to managing these conditions, and healthcare providers employ various strategies to provide the best care possible. Here are six key points on how healthcare providers treat blood cancers:

  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is a common treatment for blood cancers, involving the use of powerful drugs to kill or control the growth of cancerous cells. These drugs can be administered orally or intravenously and are often combined with other therapies.
  • Radiation Therapy: Radiation therapy utilizes high-energy X-rays or other particles to target and destroy cancer cells. It is particularly effective in treating lymphomas and localized tumors.
  • Bone Marrow Transplantation: In cases of leukemia, lymphoma, or myeloma, bone marrow or stem cell transplantation may be recommended. This involves replacing the patient's damaged bone marrow with healthy stem cells, either from a donor (allogeneic) or the patient themselves (autologous).
  • Targeted Therapy: Targeted therapies are drugs that specifically target and block the activity of certain molecules involved in cancer growth. These therapies are often used to treat myeloma and some forms of leukemia.
  • Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy enhances the body's immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells. CAR-T cell therapy, for instance, is a form of immunotherapy used in treating specific types of blood cancer.
  • Supportive Care: Blood cancer treatment can be physically and emotionally challenging. Healthcare providers offer supportive care, which includes managing side effects, such as nausea, fatigue, and infections, and providing emotional support to help patients cope with the journey.

Procedure of Blood Cancer

Blood Cancer Treatment, also known as hematological cancer, may vary depending on the type and stage of the cancer. Here is a general outline of the procedures involved in the treatment of blood cancer:

  • Diagnosis: Blood cancer is diagnosed through a series of tests, including blood tests, bone marrow biopsy, and imaging tests, such as CT scans or MRIs. 
  • Treatment planning: A team of healthcare professionals, including hematologists, oncologists, and radiation therapists, work together to develop an individualized treatment plan based on the type, stage, and overall health of the patient.
  • Treatment options: The most common treatment options for blood cancer include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, stem cell transplant, and targeted therapy.
  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is one of the types of treatment that uses drugs to help patients overcome disease. It can be administered orally or intravenously and is often given in cycles. It can also be given as tablets, sometimes as a course of treatment, or sometimes as a more long-term treatment. Chemotherapy is often given in cycles. A cycle includes having some chemotherapy, and then having a rest period with no treatment. 
  • Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy uses high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells. It can be given externally or internally, depending on the type and stage of the cancer. During treatment, you will lie on a flat surface with the radiotherapy machine above you. You will not feel anything during the treatment, but high-energy rays will be aimed at the part of your body being treated. 
  • Targeted therapy: Targeted therapy uses drugs that target specific proteins or genes in cancer cells. This treatment is often used in combination with other treatments. There are different types. Some of them may also be called biological therapies. They may be given with chemotherapy or on their own. Some are given into a vein (by a drip), some are injections and some are tablets. 
  • Follow-up care: After treatment, patients will need regular follow-up care, including blood tests, imaging tests, and check-ups with their healthcare team, to monitor their progress and manage any side effects.

 

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