According to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, every three minutes an American learns that they have blood cancer — the 3rd leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States.
But the earlier you are diagnosed, the more treatable blood cancer can be. At LifeBrite Early, we take cancer awareness seriously, which is why we are dedicated to sharing compassionate, quality information during National Blood Cancer Awareness Month in September.
What is Blood Cancer?
A Yale fact sheet reveals how blood cancers originate — usually as an abnormal reproduction in white blood cells. Blood cancer is more common in men than women, though a full picture of causes beyond a few possible genetic or environmental factors has not been fully developed.
Because the causes of blood cancers are not fully understood, defining effective prevention is also challenging. In general, avoiding tobacco and exposure to radiation or toxic industrial chemicals are advised. Following general guidelines for cancer prevention (including a healthy diet, regular exercise, and ample sleep) may also reduce your risk.
There are three main types of blood cancer, each with complex subtypes. As a result, it is important to get an accurate diagnosis from a skilled laboratory, in order to quickly and effectively determine the best method of treatment.
Leukemia (cancer of white blood cells)
Leukemia tends to be more commonly seen in children than adults, and usually presents itself with such symptoms as:
- Unexplained or sudden weight loss
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Frequent infections
- Easy bleeding and bruising
Lymphoma (cancer that affects the lymph system)
Lymphoma symptoms are similar to leukemia, but more specific symptoms may include:
- Unexplained itch
- Trouble breathing
- Night sweats
Myeloma (cancer of plasma cells)
The symptoms of myeloma may be very subtle or difficult to detect. When signs do begin to emerge, they may include:
- Bone pain
- Weakness in the legs
- Excessive thirst
As with many illnesses, having a symptom does not necessarily mean you have the disease itself. That is why it is so important to consult your doctor if you experience any symptoms that are unusual for you.
How is Blood Cancer Detected?
If you do express symptoms of blood cancer, accurate testing will be of utmost importance. Two common methods for detection include:
- Total Protein Test: This test gives your doctor a snapshot of the proteins that work hard to keep your immune system healthy while transporting important vitamins, enzymes, and hormones. If anything is amiss in your blood, certain protein levels may climb.
- Complete Blood Count: Your blood cells can tell your doctor a great deal about your overall health. A Complete Blood Count (or CBC) test can determine how many blood cells are present in a sample of your blood. Depending on the cancer for which you’re being tested, either an overabundance or deficiency of cells may be an indicator.
What to do After Diagnosis?
Being diagnosed with cancer of any kind is an emotionally and physically trying experience for anyone. Even imagining you could have cancer might be paralyzing. Here at LifeBrite Early, we understand those fears, but remind you that early detection can lead to early and effective treatment.
Depending on your blood cancer diagnosis, age, overall health, family history, and other potential factors, your treatment team may recommend different methods of treatment, including:
- Watch and wait
- Chemotherapy or other drug therapies
- Radiation therapy
- Stem cell transplant
- Blood transfusion
- Palliative care
- Clinical trials
- A combination of any of the above
Communicating closely with your doctor and medical team is important through each stage. If you are concerned you may show symptoms of blood cancer and have questions around diagnostic testing, reach out to us online or call us at 229-723-4241.
Learn More About LifeBrite
Atlanta-based LifeBrite, led by CEO Christian Fletcher, operates LifeBrite Community Hospital of Early, LifeBrite Community Hospital of Stokes, and Lifebrite Laboratories. For more about our specific services and facilities, visit our website.