There are more than 140 different types of blood cancer. Because some of these conditions are very rare, many people are completely unaware of them. However, when viewed together, blood cancers make up approximately 7 percent of all cancers.
The limited visibility of blood cancer can potentially create challenges for people who have questions or are seeking timely diagnoses, and also impact the availability of support and access to appropriate treatments. Additionally, people who are affected by these conditions may find it difficult to connect with others who are in the same or similar situations. With all of this in mind, the U.S. Congress has designated September as Blood Cancer Awareness Month. Moffitt Cancer Center is pleased to join in this effort as a way to educate the general public and provide support, strength and hope to individuals who are affected by blood cancer.
What is blood cancer?
Blood cancer affects the production and function of blood cells. These conditions develop in the bone marrow and usually spread quickly to the blood. After entering the bloodstream, the cancerous cells can travel throughout the body and ultimately spread to the lymph nodes, spleen, liver, spinal fluid and other organs.
The three main types of blood cancer are:
- Leukemia – Caused by the uncontrolled reproduction of abnormal white blood cells, this type of cancer is found in the blood and bone marrow. The resulting high volume of abnormal white blood cells in the body can impair its ability to stave off infection, and also inhibit the bone marrow from producing a sufficient number of healthy red blood cells and platelets.
- Lymphoma – This condition affects the lymphatic system, which produces lymphocytes (white blood cells that fight off infection) and drains toxins and excess fluids from the body. Abnormal lymphocytes can transform into lymphoma cells, which can multiply and impair the function of the immune system over time.
- Myeloma – This type of blood cancer specifically targets the plasma cells, which are white blood cells that produce disease- and infection-fighting antibodies. The presence of myeloma cells can inhibit the normal production of antibodies, which in turn can weaken the immune system and leave the body susceptible to infection.
Because many of the early signs of blood cancer are vague and nonspecific, these conditions can be difficult to detect. Some of the most common symptoms can be easily remembered with the acronym “TEST,” which stands for tiredness, excessive sweating, sore bones and terrible bruising. Anyone who is experiencing symptoms like these should consult with a medical professional who can recommend appropriate testing if blood cancer is suspected.
Moffitt Cancer Center
During Blood Cancer Awareness Month, Moffitt aims to get people talking about blood cancer and share insights about these complex conditions. If you would like more information, call 1-888-MOFFITT or complete our new patient registration form online. No referrals are required.