Blood Cancer: Overview
Leukemia or blood cancer is a cancer of the blood cells which starts in the bone marrow that are soft tissues inside the bones. Most often, it is a cancer of the white blood cells but some leukaemia that start in other blood cells types. It produces the abnormal white blood cells called the leukemia cells which grow faster than the normal blood cells and do not stop when they are supposed to.
There are several types of leukemia or blood cancer treatment which can be grouped as acute or chronic and lymphocytic or myelogenous. The acute leukemia gets worse in a short time period and make you feel sick right away, the chronic leukemia gets worse slowly and may cause symptoms for years. The lymphocytic leukemia affects the white blood cells whereas the myelogenous leukemia affects the white blood cells called the myelocytes. The different types of leukemia are acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) and chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML).
Top 8 ways to Treat Blood Cancer
The treatment for blood cancer depends on the type of blood cancer, age and certain features of the leukemic cells and the extent of the disease, how fast the cancer is progressing, whether it has spread and if it has been treated before.
Here are the 8 ways to treat blood cancer:
- Wait and Watch: It involves close monitoring of a patient’s condition without giving any treatment until the symptoms appear or change. Depending on the disease, some people can manage blood cancer with their doctors for years using the wait and watch approach. Usually, this is recommended for patients in the early stages of indolent or the chronic forms of blood cancers.
- Biological therapy: It is treatment with substances affecting the response of the immune system to cancer. A drug, Interferon is a form of biological therapy which is used against some types of leukemia. Also known as immunotherapy, it uses the immune system of the body to fight cancer by using the antibodies for targeting and destroying the leukemia cells.
- Radiation therapy: Sometimes, it is used for leukemia or blood cancer in the central nervous system or testicles as well as for pain caused by bone destruction. This is not the primary treatment for blood cancer. When given in high doses, it kills the cancer cells and/or keeps them from growing and dividing. It is helpful for treating cancer as these cells reproduce faster than the normal ones.
- Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy for blood cancer is given in cycles; a treatment period is followed by a recovery one and then again a treatment period and so on. This will destroy the cancer cells by stopping them from multiplying or growing. During this, some healthy cells will be destroyed as well causing side effects. However, the normal cells are often able to repair themselves post treatment and different types of drugs are used to treat different types of leukemia.
- Bone Marrow Transplants: It is the best bet to cure in most cases of the blood cancers. Doctors will perform this procedure when the blood cancer is in remission or when the patient relapses during or post treatment.
- Surgery: It is less likely considered for patients with blood cancer as the cells have spread throughout the body which makes it difficult to target a specific region.
- Vaccine therapy: The therapeutic cancer vaccines will treat the already present cancer and reduces its potential to grow. The goal of the vaccine therapy is to make the immune cells attack any cancer cells.
- Stem cell transplantation: It infuses the healthy blood forming stem cells in the body which can be collected from the bone marrow, circulating blood and umbilical cord blood.
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