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Blood cancer affects how the body produces blood cells. Blood cancers mostly start in the bone marrow, which is a sponge-like material inside the bones. The bone marrow produces stem cells that mature and finally become white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets. Normal blood cells help fight infection, transport oxygen all throughout the body and control bleeding. Blood cancer can result when certain things disrupt how the body makes blood cells. In blood cancer, abnormal blood cells affect normal blood cells, producing a ripple effect of medical conditions.
Lymphoma, leukaemia and myeloma are some common types of blood cancer. Blood cancer is caused due to mutations in blood cell DNA. This makes the blood cells to begin behaving abnormally. These changes are associated with things that we cannot control. Some types of blood cancer can affect children. Treatment and symptoms of blood cancer can be different in children and adults.
There are various types of blood cancer. Some common types are listed below:
Leukemia: This is a cancer of the body's blood-producing tissues and is the most common blood cancer. It is a common cancer in children and teenagers. Types of leukemia are acute myeloid leukemia, acute lymphoblastic leukemia, chronic myelogenous leukemia and chronic lymphocytic leukemia.
Myeloma: It starts in the bone marrow and affects the plasma cells. The most common myeloma is multiple myeloma. More than half of individuals diagnosed with myeloma live for five years after diagnosis. Plasmacytoma and amyloidosis are other types of myeloma.
Lymphoma: This is a cancer of the lymphatic system that includes the bone marrow. The survival rate for this type of blood cancer has nearly doubled over the past 40 years. Subtypes of lymphoma include non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Hodgkin lymphoma, follicular lymphoma, Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia, cutaneous T-cell lymphoma and B-cell lymphoma.
Causes and Symptoms
There are some tests to diagnose blood cancer:
Complete blood count or CBC: This test is used to measure and count blood cells. If the healthcare provider suspects leukemia, they will look for very high (or low) count of white blood cell and lower counts of platelet counts and red blood cell.
Other Blood test: It measures chemicals and other things in the blood. The healthcare provider may also order certain blood test for cancer to know more about your situation.
Computed tomography scan: CT scan uses X-rays and a computer for creating three-dimensional images of bones and soft tissues. If myeloma is suspected by your healthcare providers, they may want you to have a CT scan to detect any bone damage.
Positron emission tomography scan: PET scan produces pictures of the organs and tissues. A PET scan may be ordered by your healthcare provider to detect any signs of myeloma.
Magnetic resonance imaging scan: MRI scan may be performed to look for any signs of leukemia and lymphoma complications that affect the spine.
Bone marrow biopsy: Bone marrow biopsy may be done by healthcare providers to determine the percentage of abnormal and normal blood cells in the bone marrow. They can even test the bone marrow sample to look for any changes in the DNA that can trigger the growth of cancer.
Blood cell examination: Blood samples may be analyzed by your healthcare providers to look for any changes in the appearance of blood cell. Peripheral smear test can also be done to detect any signs of lymphoma or leukemia.
Spinal tap: It involves assessing fluid from the spinal cord. This test can tell the doctor if the leukemia has spread to other parts.
Risk & Complications
Like any treatment, blood cancer treatment is also associated with some complications. Some side effects can be short-term which go away after the completion of the treatment, while others may last longer. Below are some complications of blood cancer treatment:
Anaemia: Anaemia refers to having a low count of red blood cells. It may lead to tiredness and breathlessness. A blood transfusion can be performed to treat this condition.
Sore mouth or gut: There may be a sore mouth or soreness in the gastrointestinal tract that includes the food pipe, gut and stomach. This is a common complication of chemotherapy as well as radiotherapy. It may be painful, but can be treated with medications.
Change in bowel habits: You may experience diarrhoea or constipation. These can be cured with the help of medicines and changes to your diet. You can also see a dietitian.
Fertility problems: Chemotherapy may affect the patient’s fertility. They need to talk to their healthcare team to preserve fertility. When undergoing chemotherapy, it is necessary to avoid getting pregnant, as the medications may harm the baby.
Hair loss or thinning: Hair loss can occur due to ongoing chemotherapy and other treatments. Various approaches can be adopted to deal with hair loss. Your hair will come back after your treatment is over.
Infections: Blood cancer treatments such as chemotherapy generally weaken the immune system and increase your chances of getting infections. It is important to be aware of the signs of any infection to get treatment such as antibiotics. There are may measures that you can take to decrease the risk of getting infections.
Tiredness: Fatigue or tiredness is experienced when an individual is totally drained in mind or body. It can also lead to a condition called brain fog. Balancing rest with activity can help you. You can also lea what all is doable for you by closely tracking your symptoms.
Preparation of Treatment
Some advance preparations can help you undergo treatment smoothly and make you ready for any treatment side effects. Below are five things you can do before undergoing blood cancer treatment:
Adopt healthy eating strategies: Diet plays an important role as part of the treatment preparation. You need to take protein-rich diet. Avoid smoking and alcohol at least a week before the treatment begins. Prepare and freeze certain simple meals which you can use later with minimum efforts.
Reduce your infection risk: This can be done by minimizing exposure to germs. Make a habit of washing the hands thoroughly and carry antibacterial wipes to clean the house regularly during your blood cancer treatment.
Talk to your oncologist regarding your pre-treatment testing requirement: Tests before the treatment may include several bloods as well as imaging tests. Have a dental examination as any oral infection may lead to some complications during cancer treatment.
Have some extra rest: Proper rest helps you embark on your leukemia treatment. Try to be as healthy, strong and well-rested as possible.
Best Hospitals for Blood Cancer Treatment
Treatment for blood cancer depends on the type of cancer, how much it has spread, and what is the current health status of the patient. The main treatments for blood cancer are:
Chemotherapy: This is a common type of treatment for leukemia. Chemotherapy uses chemicals to destroy blood cancer cells. Depending on the type of cancer you have, you can receive a single or a combination of drugs. Such drugs may come in the form of a pill, or they might be injected into a vein.
Radiation therapy: This therapy uses X-rays and other high-energy radiations to kill leukemia cells and halt their growth. In radiation therapy, a large machine moves around the patient, directing the radiation to specific points on the body. You may get radiation in a specific area where there is a group of leukemia cells, or may receive radiation all over body. Radiation therapy can also be used for preparing for a bone marrow transplant.
Bone marrow transplant: This procedure is used to replace diseased bone marrow with healthy bone marrow cells. Before undergoing a bone marrow transplant, the patient will receive chemotherapy or radiation therapy to kill leukemia-producing bone marrow. This is followed by an infusion of blood-forming stem cells which will rebuild the bone marrow. Stem cells can be received from a donor or the patient can use their own stem cells.
Engineered immune cells: A specific treatment known as chimeric antigen receptor-T cell therapy involves taking the body's germ-fighting T cells, then engineering them to fight against cancer and finally infusing them back into the body. This therapy may be an effective option for some types of blood cancer.
Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy is also used for blood cancer treatment. This therapy uses the immune system to fight blood cancer. The immune system may not target your cancer, as cancer cells make proteins that help them escape from the immune system cells. Immunotherapy generally works by affecting that process.
Surgery: A doctor can remove the spleen if it is occupied with cancer cells and is affecting nearby organs. This specific procedure is known as splenectomy.
Cost of the treatment
Blood cancer treatment cost in India is much affordable compared to other countries. Best treatment for blood cancer in India at lower costs is possible through quality healthcare facilities and world-class technology. The cost of blood cancer treatment in India ranges from nearly $2,000 to $10,000 depending on a number of factors, such as type of hospital, type of treatment, facilities availed, etc. For more information about cost of blood cancer you can contact us.
Recovery after blood cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, may take 4 to 6 weeks. This period may vary from person to person depending on several factors, such as age, complications, and treatment type. You need to follow a few things for speedy recovery. For a smooth recovery, you need to exercise, have a balanced diet, get good sleep, maintain a healthy weight, avoid tobacco, limit alcohol intake and reduce stress. These simple steps help improve the overall quality of life.
Award-winning CEO of Marlin Medical Assistance Pvt. Ltd
Dr. Mohammad Afzal Siddiqui is an award-winning CEO of Marlin Medical Assistance Pvt. Ltd., a professionally managed medical tourism holding company and the active Director of Alshifa Healthcare Services Pvt. Ltd., a full-service medical tourism aggregation agency servicing JCI and NABH/ NABL accredited Hospitals across the country’s 5 locations.
In addition to Marlin, Alshifa also includes Media Group, which houses Arabic Medical Tourism e-Magazine healthandtour.com. The E-magazine “مجلة الصحة والسياحة” provides a wide scope of medical tourism information to healthcare travellers to find a safe, effective and cost-saving solution for their medical and healthcare needs. In addition to running E-Magazine, Dr. Mohammad Afzal also serves as Delhi-state coordinator in Foundation of Healthcare and Wellness Promotion focused on bringing India’s Healthcare closer to the world and smoothen world’s access to Indian Healthcare.