blood cells

Blood cancers

Blood cancers affect blood cells. For example, leukaemia (white blood cells), lymphoma (lymphocyte cells) and myeloma (plasma cells).

There are a number of cancers that affect the blood. Our blood is made of different types of blood cells, which are made in the bone marrow in the middle of our bones. There are three main types of blood cells:  red blood cells (which carry oxygen), platelets (which help blood to clot), and white blood cells (which fight infection).

When blood cancer occurs, normal blood cell development is affected by the uncontrolled growth of an abnormal kind of blood cell. These cancerous cells stop your blood from performing the functions it's supposed to do, like fighting infections or clotting your blood when you're cut.

Types of blood cancer:

  1. Leukaemia
  2. Lymphoma
  3. Myeloma
  4. Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS)

About leukaemia

Leukaemia is cancer of your white blood cells and bone marrow. Bone marrow is the place where blood cells are made in your body. With leukaemia, immature blood cells divide quickly and do not grow into mature cells. These immature cells crowd your bone marrow and prevent it from making normal healthy cells.

Leukaemia can be divided into two main groups depending on how fast the disease develops: Acute leukaemia develops quickly, whereas chronic leukaemia develops more slowly. The word ‘acute’ does not refer to how successful the treatment will be.

The type of leukaemia also depends on which kind of white blood cell is affected. There are many different types of white blood cells. These include myeloid and lymphoid cells. Myeloid cells develop into red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Lymphoid cells develop into white blood cells called lymphocytes. As a result, there are 4 main types of leukaemia:

About lymphoma

Lymphoma is cancer of the lymphatic system. Generally, lymphoma cells grow in lymph glands (nodes). This causes the glands to get bigger or swell. 

There are two types of lymphoma. One is called Hodgkin and the other is non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The difference between the two types depends on the appearance of the lymphoma cells under the microscope. Most lymphomas are non-Hodgkin lymphomas. 

About myeloma

Myeloma is a cancer of the plasma cells in the bone marrow. Normally, plasma cells make proteins called antibodies (immunoglobulins) to fight infection and help build up immunity to disease.

About myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS)

Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) is a rare type of blood cancer sometimes referred to as bone marrow failure. All blood cells in a healthy person are made in the bone marrow. In MDS, your bone marrow makes a large amount of abnormal cells, so you don’t have enough healthy blood cells in your bloodstream.

Blood cancer
Blood cancers
Know the most common symptoms of blood cancer, because spotting cancer early is important. An A4 poster to download, share, or print.

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