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Blood Cancer: Symptoms, Causes, Types, and More

Blood Cancer: Symptoms, Causes, Types, and More

by Zahra Ijaz · January 25, 2022

Do you know that Blood Cancer often affects the blood-forming tissues of your body?

It often includes the lymphatic system and your white blood cells.

There are different types of blood cancer, either acute or chronic, and early diagnosis and treatment can help to improve your outlook.
Let’s learn more about it.


Blood Cancer: Symptoms and Causes

Blood cancer affects your blood cells and bone marrow. It is spongy tissues inside your bones where it makes blood cells.

Moreover, these cancers can change the blood cells behave and how well they work. Different signs and symptoms can help your doctor to diagnose your condition. Thus, learning about them can help and even early treatment can help with the outlook.

Let’s learn more about them in detail.

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There are three major types of blood cells in your body.
These are:

  • white blood cells that help to fight infection as part of your immune system
  • red blood cells that carry oxygen to the tissues and organs of your body, and bring back carbon dioxide to your lungs so that you can breathe it out
  • platelets that help your blood clot when there is an injury

Symptoms of Blood Cancer

Some of the common bone marrow and blood cancer symptoms are:

Fever, chills, loss of appetite, nausea, unexplained weight loss, night sweats, bone or joint pain.

You may also experience abdominal discomfort, shortness of breath, frequent infections, itchy skin or skin rash, and swollen lymph nodes in the neck, underarms, or groin.


Moreover, there are three major types of blood cancers.

They can cause your bone marrow and the lymphatic system to make blood cells that do not work as they should.

Additionally, they affect different types of white blood cells, and they then begin to act in different ways.

We will discuss them in the next sections.

Let’s discuss the causes and risk factors of blood cancer.

Causes and Risk factors for Blood Cancer

Researchers do not know what exactly causes blood cancer.

However, factors like previous sessions of chemotherapy or radiation, genetic disorders, blood cancer, and repeated exposure to chemical benzene can increase the likelihood of developing blood cancer.

Risk Factors
The cause of blood cancer is unknown, however, different factors that may increase your risks of developing blood cancer can help to avoid it.

risk factors

Some of these are:

  • a family history of blood cancer
  • smoking, which often increases the risk of developing acute myeloid leukemia, AML
  • genetic disorders like Down Syndrome
  • blood disorders like myelodysplastic syndrome, which is also called Preleukemia
  • previous treatment for cancer with chemotherapy and radiation
  • exposure to high levels of radiation
  • exposure to chemicals like benzene


Blood Cancer: Types

Blood cancer has 3 different types and each type has a subtype.
Moreover, it is important to note that each type and subtype can affect different people of different ages. Depending on the type of blood cancer, your doctor will devise a treatment plan that best suits your condition.
Keep on reading.
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If you have leukemia, then your body will make a lot of white blood cells that are unable to fight infections.

Moreover, doctors divide leukemia into four types based on the kind of white blood cell it affects.

And whether it grows quickly, i.e. acute, or slowly, i.e. chronic.

Acute Lymphatic Leukemia, ALL
This one starts with white blood cells: lymphocytes in the bone marrow.
People will ALL make too many lymphocytes that crowd out healthy white blood cells.

Moreover, ALL can advance quickly if people do not get treatment.

It is one of the most common types of childhood cancer and childer from the age of 3 to 5 are most likely to suffer from it.


However, adults over the age of 75 can get ALL too.

You are more likely to have AAL if:

  • have a sibling with ALL
  • had chemotherapy or radiation in the past for another type of cancer
  • were near a lot of radiation
  • have Down syndrome or another genetic disorder

Types of Leukemia

Types of Leukemia are:

Acute Myeloid Leukemia, AML
AML tarts with myeloid cells that normally grow into white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets.

Moreover, AML lowers the number of healthy blood cells in all three types and this form grows quickly.

This type of leukemia often affects people over the age of 65 and is more common in men than in women.

You are more prone to getting this type of cancer iF:

  • had treatment with chemotherapy or radiation for cancer
  • are around toxic chemicals like benzene
  • have a blood disorder like myelodysplasia or polycythemia vera or a genetic disorder like Down Syndrome
  • smoking

Chronic Lymphatic Leukemia, CLL
CLL is the most common type of leukemia in adults.

Like ALL is starts from lymphocytes in the bone marrow, however, it grows more slowly.


Many people with CLL do not show any symptoms until years after cancer begins.

CLL mainly affects people who are 75 years of age or above.

A family history of blood cancer raises your odds of this type, as can spending a lot of time around certain chemicals.

These include weedkillers or insecticides.

Chronic Myeloid Leukemia, CML
CML blood cancer starts in myeloid cells like AML, however, the abnormal cells grow slowly.

Additionally, CML is slightly more common in women than in men. However, kids can also get it in some cases.

You are more likely to have CML if you spend high amounts of time around radiation.


Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymph system.

The lymphatic system is a network of vessels that includes lymph nodes, spleen, and thymus gland.

Moreover, these vessels store and carry white blood cells to help your body fight infections.

This cancer starts in white blood cells: Lymphocytes and there are two types of lymphoma.


Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
This one starts in immune cells: B lymphocytes or B cells.

These cells make proteins, i.e. antibodies that fight off germs, however, people with Hodgkin’s lymphoma have large lymphocytes: Reed-Sternberg cells in their lymph nodes.

Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
It starts in B cells or in another type of immune cell, i.e. T cell.
Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is more common than Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

One of the important things to note is that both types are divided into a few subtypes.

The subtypes are based on which part of the body cancer begins in and how it behaves.

People who have weak immune systems are more likely to get lymphoma.

Infection with Epstein-Barr virus, HIV, or Helicopter pylori i.e. H. pylori bacteria can also raise the chances.

Moreover, this cancer is more common in people of age between 15 to 35 and over 50 years of age.


This is a cancer of plasma cells in the bone marrow.

Plasma cells are a type of white blood cell that makes antibodies.

Myeloma cells can spread through the bone marrow, damage your bones, and crowd out the healthy blood cells.

Moreover, these cells also make antibodies that are unable to fight infections.


Most often doctors often term it as Multiple Myeloma as it is found in different parts of your bone marrow.

Men over the age of 50 are most likely to get it, and African-Americans have higher risks for developing this type of blood cancer.

Furthermore, your chances are higher if:

  • have close relatives with myeloma
  • are obese
  • spending a lot of time around radiation



Diagnosis and Treatment Options

Determining a diagnosis often starts with a physical examination to check your general health.

Different tests can help to determine whether you are suffering from blood cancer or not. With a diagnosis, your doctor will determine your course of treatment.
Let’s learn more about it in detail.

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Let’s discuss the diagnosis of blood cancer.

Diagnosing Blood Cancer

At first, your doctor will begin with a physical examination.

Moreover, your doctor will review your health history, examine your body and lymph nodes, as well as, look for the signs of infection or bruising.

Different types of tests and procedures can help to diagnose blood cancer.

Your care team will recommend testing and evaluating all the results along with you to make a diagnosis.

blood cancer diagnosis

With the help of a biopsy, your doctor will collect the sample for examination.

For some types of blood cancer, like lymphoma, you may need a lymph node biopsy that obtains a sample of lymph tissue or an entire lymph node.

Moreover, testing your bone marrow, where your blood cells form, can help to diagnose certain types of blood cancer.

The doctor uses a procedure: bone marrow aspiration to remove a small sample of bone marrow, blood, and bone from either a hip bone or breastbone.

They will then send the sample to the lab and check for abnormal cells or changes in the genetic material.

Imaging Scans
These scans are more helpful for some types of blood cancer than others.

Image Scans can indicate an enlarged lymph node which is a common symptom of lymphoma, however, it can not help to diagnose leukemia, which does not cause visible tumors.

Still, they can help whether cancer is affecting any part of the body.

CT scan, MRI, PET scan, X-ray, and ultrasound can be used.

Your doctor can use certain types of cancer along with biopsies to help pinpoint the area for sampling.

Blood Tests
A complete blood count, CBC can help to check different components of your blood like white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets.

Furthermore, blood chemistry tests measure the level of different substances in your blood.

However, abnormal levels of certain proteins can help to diagnose.

In case your doctor suspects multiple myeloma, your doctor may want to check your blood calcium level.

On the other hand, an enzyme: lactate dehydrogenase, LDH measurement can help.

Blood Cancer Prognosis

After your diagnosis, your doctor will most likely want to know your prognosis in order to determine the future course of treatment.

Thus, it is best to ask your medical team about the prognosis.

Your individual prognosis depends on a number of things.

These are your diagnosis, including the type of blood cancer and the results of specific tests.


Moreover, the stage of the disease when your doctor makes a diagnosis, your age, and general fitness.

Even after taking these factors into account, the information your medical team gives will be quite general.

It will often be based on what is happening to other people with the same condition as yours, however, you can have quite different experiences.

Treatment and Therapy Options

Treatment for blood and bone marrow cancer depends on the type of cancer, your age, how fast the cancer is progressing, where that cancer has spread, and other factors.

Some common blood cancer treatments for leukemia, lymphoma and multiple myeloma are as follows:

Stem Cell Transplantation
A stem cell transplant infuses healthy blood-forming stem cells in your body.

Your doctor may collect the stem cell from bone marrow, circulating blood, and umbilical cord blood.

Chemotherapy uses anticancer drugs to interfere with and stop the growth of cancer cells in your body.

In the case of blood cancer, sometimes involves giving drugs together in a set regime and your doctor can also use it before a stem cell transplant.

Radiation Therapy
With the help of radiation therapy, your doctor will destroy cancer cells or help to relieve pain and discomfort.

They might choose to give radiation therapy before a stem cell transplant.


The long-term outlook of blood cancer depends on the type of cancer and the stage. The sooner you get a diagnosis, the better the treatment, and your chance of recovery is.
Some factors like older age, past history of blood disorders, and chromosome mutations can, however, negatively affect the outlook.
According to NCI, the survival rate of blood cancer patients is 65% from 2011 to 2017. However, these figures are from the range of different age groups. Make sure to work with your medical treatment and find out your specific outlook.

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