Blood Cancer

Blood cancers affect blood cells and bone marrow -- the spongy tissue inside your bones where blood cells are made. These cancers change the way blood cells behave and how well they work. You have three types of blood cells:

  1. White blood cells fight infection as part of your immune system.
  2. Red blood cells carry oxygen to your body's tissues and organs and bring carbon dioxide to your lungs so you can breathe it out.
  3. Platelets help your blood clot when you're injured.

There are three major types of blood cancer:

  1. Leukemia
  2. Lymphoma
  3. Myeloma

These cancers cause your bone marrow and lymphatic system to make blood cells that don't work as well as they should. They all affect different types of white blood cells, and they act in different ways.


Blood cancer happens when something goes wrong with the development of your blood cells. This stops them working properly and they may grow out of control. This can stop your blood doing the things it normally does to keep you healthy, like fighting off infections or helping repair your body.

Signs and Symptoms

Each type of blood cancer is different, but they can share some common symptoms and signs. Some people may not have any symptoms until the disease is advanced. Or, sometimes the symptoms may be mistaken for a severe cold or flu. Some common blood cancer symptoms include:

  1. Coughing or chest pain
  2. Fever or chills
  3. Frequent infections
  4. Itchy skin or rash
  5. Loss of appetite or nausea
  6. Night sweats
  7. Persistent weakness and fatigue
  8. Shortness of breath
  9. Swollen, painless lymph nodes in the neck, armpits, or groin

If it's suspected that you have cancer, your doctor may order certain cancer blood tests or other laboratory tests, such as an analysis of your urine or a biopsy of a suspicious area, to help guide the diagnosis. Samples collected for cancer blood tests are analyzed in a lab for signs of cancer. The samples may show cancer cells, proteins or other substances made by the cancer. Blood tests can also give your doctor an idea of how well your organs are functioning and if they've been affected by cancer. Examples of blood tests used to diagnose cancer include:

  1. Complete blood count (CBC). This common blood test measures the amount of various types of blood cells in a sample of your blood. Blood cancers may be detected using this test if too many or too few of a type of blood cell or abnormal cells are found. A bone marrow biopsy may help confirm a diagnosis of a blood cancer.
  2. Blood protein testing. A test (electrophoresis) to examine various proteins in your blood can aid in detecting certain abnormal immune system proteins (immunoglobulins) that are sometimes elevated in people with multiple myeloma. Other tests, such as a bone marrow biopsy, are used to confirm a suspected diagnosis.
  3. Tumor marker tests. Tumor markers are chemicals made by tumor cells that can be detected in your blood.
  4. Circulating tumor cell tests. Recently developed blood tests are being used to detect cells that have broken away from an original cancer site and are floating in the bloodstream. One circulating tumor cell test has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration to monitor people with breast, colorectal or prostate cancer. This test isn't commonly used in a clinical setting.
  1. There are over 100 different types of blood cancer and related conditions. Some groups like leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma are more familiar, but others such as myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) and myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPN) are much less well-known.
  2. Not all blood cancers develop in the same way some are fast growing and some develop more slowly.
  3. Blood cancer is the most common type of cancer amongst children, teenagers and young people.
  4. Blood cancer is the fifth most common type of cancer.
  5. 20% of transfused red blood cell units are given to patients with blood cancer.
  1. Stem Cell Transplantation

    In stem cell transplantation, high doses of chemotherapy and radiation are given to destroy leukemia cells along with normal bone marrow. Stem cells travel to the bone marrow and begin producing new blood cells. Stem cell may come from the patient or from a donor.

  2. Immunotherapy

    Immunotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that helps your immune system fight cancer. Immune system helps your body fight infections and other diseases. It is made up of white blood cells, organs and tissues of the lymph system. Immunotherapy is a type of biological therapy.

  3. Chemotherapy

    Chemotherapy is the administration of drugs that kill rapidly dividing cells such as leukemia or other cancer cells. Chemotherapy may be taken orally in pill or tablet form, or it may be delivered via a catheter or intravenous line directly into the bloodstream.

  1. Avoid exposure to radiation.
  2. Avoid chemicals such as pesticides or benzene, and to smoking or tobacco in any form.
  3. Additional lifestyle behaviors, such as staying active and eating a healthy diet can help reduce your risk for developing a variety of cancers and other diseases.