If you, a family member, or someone you know has recently been diagnosed with blood cancer, or if you are simply curious about learning more, you may have many questions: What are the common treatments? What are the different types of blood cancer? What are the different stages? Learn more about the three most common types of blood cancer – leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma – as well as their treatment options below.
Leukemia is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow and affects red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. In patients with leukemia, cancerous blood cells form in the bone marrow. These cancerous cells crowd out and prevent new, healthy blood cells from forming.
A leukemia diagnosis can be acute or chronic; acute means it is a fast-growing cancer and chronic means it is slow-growing and gradually gets worse over time. The most common types of leukemia are acute lymphoblastic leukemia, acute myeloid leukemia, chronic lymphocytic leukemia and chronic myeloid leukemia.
Lymphoma begins in the cells of the lymph system, a part of the immune system, which helps your body fight infection and disease. Lymph tissue is found throughout the body and is connected through a network of vessels.
Common types of lymphoma include Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Hodgkin lymphoma is one of the most treatable forms of cancer and occurs when a change in a type of white blood cell, called a lymphocyte, causes it to become a cancerous lymphoma cell. The lymphoma cells form masses and gather in parts of the body. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma may form from different types of white blood cells, and can be fast-growing or slow-growing.
Myeloma is a cancer that begins in the bone marrow and affects plasma cells, which are a type of white blood cells that make antibodies to help your immune system fight off infections. When myeloma is found in the marrow of multiple bones in your body, it is called multiple myeloma. More than 90 percent of myeloma patients are diagnosed with multiple myeloma.
Treatment for Blood Cancer
The best blood cancer treatment for you will be determined by your specific type of cancer, overall health and the rate of progression of your disease. It is important to let your care team know when you experience new symptoms or side effects throughout your treatment.
Advances in immunotherapy treatments, including CAR T-cell therapy and new molecular targeted therapies, have demonstrated promising responses, and blood and marrow transplants have expanded to broader populations with multiple stem cell sources.
Dr. Malik with the Sarah Cannon Cancer Clinic at St. David’s South Austin Medical Center says, “Now is the most exciting time in the treatment of blood cancers. The advances in the past several years have made the outlook for these once uniformly devastating group of diseases much brighter.”
Common treatments for blood cancers include:
- Watchful waiting
- Radiation therapy
- Stem cell transplantation
- Blood transfusion
- Clinical trials