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What Are Some Common Blood Cancers?

Blood cancers disrupt and affect both the production and function of your blood cells. Your bone marrow is where your blood is produced, and typically, this is where these cancers begin. As the stem cells in your bone marrow mature, they develop into the three different types of blood cells. These are your red and white blood cells, and your platelets.

Blood cancer typically interrupts this development process with uncontrolled growth of abnormal blood cells. These are the cancerous cells, and they prevent your blood from performing its normal functions such as clotting to stop excessive bleeding.

 

What Are the Different Types of Blood Cancers?

Blood cancers affect the cells within the bone marrow, they alter the way these cells function and behave. There are 3 main types of blood cancers – leukaemia, lymphoma, and myeloma. The primary difference between these types of blood cancers is where they are formed and the cells they affect. This page will explore the differences between these blood cancers and the most suitable treatment types for each type of blood cancer.


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What Is Acute Myeloid Leukaemia?

Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML) is a type of blood cancer that occurs due to the excessive production of a specific type of immature white blood cells (also known as myeloblasts) in the bone marrow. 

These excess myeloblasts cause overcrowding in the bone marrow, leaving little room for the production of other healthy blood cells such as red blood cells and platelets.

 

What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Acute Myeloid Leukaemia?

The symptoms of Acute Myeloid Leukaemia may vary depending on the type of blood cells affected. However, in the initial phase, the symptoms may be similar to that of the flu. As the disease progresses, patients may develop symptoms such as fatigue, difficulty breathing, pain in the bones, and pale skin. 

 

What Are the Risk Factors of Acute Myeloid Leukaemia?

Some common risk factors of acute myeloid leukaemia include age, smoking, exposure to certain chemicals, a history of chemotherapy, and specific blood disorders. 

 

How Is Acute Myeloid Leukaemia Diagnosed?

For our haematologists to diagnose AML, a series of tests may be ordered. These include blood tests and a bone marrow biopsy, allowing our doctors to detect abnormalities linked to acute myeloid leukaemia. 

 

What Are the Treatment Options for Acute Myeloid Leukaemia?

Depending on the patient’s age, health condition and subtype of cancer, AML treatment may include one or a combination of chemotherapy, targeted therapy, stem cell transplantation.

You can find out more about AML, its symptoms, and treatment options here

What Is Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia?

ALL is the most common type of cancer in children and accounts for 20% of blood cancers in adults. It is a type of blood cancer that leads to the overproduction of abnormal white blood cells called lymphoblasts. These lymphoblasts circulate in the bloodstream and infiltrate the bone marrow, lymph glands and other organs in the body.

 

What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia?

Some common signs and symptoms of ALL include: 

  • Fever
  • Fatigue 
  • Unusual Bruising 
  • Prolonged Bleeding 
  • Unexplained Weight Loss
  • Enlarged Abdomen 

 

What Are the Risk Factors of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia?

Risk factors that may increase your chances of getting ALL include exposure to radiation or certain chemicals, age, gender, specific genetic disorders, and certain viral infections. 

 

How Is Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia Diagnosed?

Often patients initially present to the doctor with nonspecific symptoms such as tiredness, bruising, recurrent fevers or swelling over the neck, groin or armpit. On other occasions, patients may be referred for investigations after having an abnormal blood test.

 

What Are the Treatment Options for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia?

The management of ALL can be complex. When deciding the actual treatment pathway required, there are often many factors to consider (such as the patient’s age, physical fitness, and disease status). 

However, all treatment options for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia typically include some combination of chemotherapy, targeted therapy, immunotherapy, CNS treatment, and bone marrow transplantation. 

You can learn more about acute lymphoblastic leukaemia and its treatment here.

What Is Chronic Leukaemia? 

Chronic leukaemia results from the dysregulated growth of the white blood cells in the bone marrow, causing an elevated white blood cell count. It is often associated with reduced haemoglobin and platelet counts due to compromised bone marrow function.

There are 2 primary forms of chronic leukaemia depending on the origin of the white cells affected. Chronic leukaemia can be myeloid or lymphoid in origin.

 

What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Chronic Leukaemia?

Most patients with chronic leukaemia do not develop any symptoms in the initial stages. However, some patients may develop a few nonspecific signs and symptoms such as:

  • Enlargement of the Lymph Nodes
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Pain in the left upper portion of the abdomen due to the enlargement of the spleen
  • Unexplained Weight Loss
  • Excessive Night Sweats
  • Frequent Infections
  • Pale Skin
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Easy Bruising and Bleeding
  • Bone Pain

 

What Are the Risk Factors of Chronic Leukaemia?

Risk factors for chronic leukaemia may include smoking, a history of radiation therapy or chemotherapy, myelodysplastic syndromes, rare genetic syndromes, and a family history of the disease. 

 

How Is Chronic Leukaemia Diagnosed?

To diagnose chronic leukaemia, our haematologists will first perform blood tests including a full blood count. However, you may require further investigations with specialised tests such as a bone marrow assessment and PET-CT/CT scans. 

 

What Are the Treatment Options for Chronic Leukaemia?

Your treatment options will vary depending on the type of chronic leukaemia that you have been diagnosed with, either chronic myeloid leukaemia or chronic lymphocytic leukaemia. However, treatment options include targeted therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and a bone marrow transplant. 

You can learn more about chronic leukaemia and its different treatment options here

What Is Lymphoma?

Lymphoma is a type of blood cancer that begins in the cells of the lymphatic system, which is responsible for fighting disease and infection. It affects the infection-fighting cells of the immune system known as lymphocytes.

 

What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Lymphoma?

Some common symptoms of lymphoma experienced by patients include: 

  • Persistent Fatigue
  • Fever 
  • Night Sweats
  • Shortness of Breath 
  • Unexplained Weight Loss 
  • Painless swelling of one’s lymph nodes in the armpits, neck, or groin 

 

What Are the Risk Factors of Lymphoma?

Risk factors of lymphoma may include having a weakened immune system, age, ethnicity, exposure to certain chemicals, radiation, or drugs, and autoimmune diseases. 

 

How Is Lymphoma Diagnosed?

For our haematologists to diagnose lymphoma, they may order a series of tests, including a physical examination, biopsy, bone marrow aspiration, and blood, urine, and imaging tests. 

 

What Are the Treatment Options for Lymphoma?

Treatment of lymphoma can be given via different modalities of therapy. First line treatment of lymphoma is usually given in cycles of therapy. Each cycle is typically 3-4 weeks in duration, with treatment given over a few days as a combination of different chemotherapy drugs (sometimes with targeted therapy). In patients who have relapsed following initial lymphoma therapy, there are now several treatment options avaliable, including salvage chemotherapy, targeted immuno-chemotherapy, stem cell transplantation, and novel cellular therapies such as CAR-T cell therapy

You can find out more about lymphoma and its treatment options here

What Is Myeloma?

Myeloma is a form of blood cancer that affects the plasma cells in the bone marrow. These cells are normally involved in the defence functions of the immune system and help the body fight infections by producing antibodies. Myeloma causes the accumulation of abnormal plasma cells in the bone marrow resulting in the crowding of healthy blood cells. 

 

What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Myeloma?

The common signs and symptoms of myeloma include:

  • Pain in the bones, particularly the spine and ribs
  • Unusual Tiredness
  • Recurring Infections
  • Mental disorientation, fogginess, and confusion
  • Kidney Damage
  • Unexplained Weight Loss
  • Numbness or weakness in the legs
  • Increased Thirst

 

What Are the Risk Factors of Myeloma?

Several factors can increase your risk of myeloma, including age, race, gender, family history, personal history of MGUS, obesity, and exposure to toxic elements. 

 

How Is Myeloma Diagnosed?

Some tests and procedures that can help our haematologists diagnose multiple myeloma include blood and urine tests, imaging tests, and bone marrow tests. 

 

What Are the Treatment Options for Myeloma?

Most patients with myeloma are given a combination of drugs and treatment. The choice of drugs depends on the patient’s physical status, including age and overall health, the extent of renal impairment or organ damage, and the specific sub-type of myeloma.

Treatment options include chemotherapy, corticosteroids, immunotherapy, targeted therapy, radiation therapy, and stem cell transplantation. 

You can learn more about myeloma, its symptoms, and treatment options here.

What Are Myeloproliferative Neoplasms (MPN)? 

Myeloproliferative Neoplasms (MPNs) refer to a group of rare, chronic blood cancers caused by the excess production of different blood cells by the bone marrow. MPN is classified into 3 major conditions – Polycythaemia Vera (PV), Essential Thrombocytosis (ET) and Myelofibrosis (MF). 

 

What Are the Signs & Symptoms of MPN?

Some common symptoms of myeloproliferative neoplasms include: 

  • Night Sweats
  • Blurred Vision
  • Weakness 
  • Itchiness 
  • Headaches 
  • Raised Blood Pressure 

 

What Are the Risk Factors of MPN?

Lifestyle factors such as smoking, diet and obesity have been implicated with a higher risk of MPN, but there are no clear risk factors specifically associated with MPN. 

 

How Is MPN Diagnosed?

The diagnosis of MPN is made based on physical signs and symptoms, blood counts, and specific diagnostic tests. The diagnostic tests that can help detect MPNs include routine blood tests, specialised molecular tests, and a bone marrow biopsy. 

 

What Are the Treatment Options for MPN?

The aim of the treatment is to minimise the risk of complications associated with MPN and to improve quality of life. Treatment options for myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPN) may include antiplatelet therapy, venesection, cytoreductive therapy, interferon, targeted therapy, and stem cell transplantation. 

You can find more information on myeloproliferative neoplasms, their diagnosis, and the treatment options available here

What Are Myelodysplastic Syndromes (MDS)?

Myelodysplastic Syndromes (MDS) are a group of diverse bone marrow disorders in which the bone marrow does not produce enough healthy blood cells. MDS is often referred to as a “bone marrow failure disorder”.

 

What Are the Signs & Symptoms of MDS?

Myelodysplastic syndromes may not cause any signs and symptoms in the initial stages. As the disease progress, patients may experience symptoms related to impaired function of the blood, such as:

  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Persistent weakness and tiredness
  • A tendency for bruising or bleeding due to thrombocytopenia or a low blood platelet count. 
  • Unusual paleness of the skin due to anaemia or a low red blood cell count.
  • Frequent infections due to a low white blood cell count.

 

What Are the Risk Factors of MDS?

Some risk factors that may increase the chances of developing MDS include age, exposure to toxic chemicals, and cancer treatment drugs. 

 

How Is MDS Diagnosed?

At CFCH, our haematologists may order several tests to diagnose MDS. These include blood tests and a bone marrow biopsy. 

 

What Are the Treatment Options for MDS?

The treatment for Myelodysplastic syndromes depends on the stage of the disease, your age, and your performance status. It may involve one or a combination of therapies such as growth factor injections, blood transfusions, immune modulating agents, epigenetics agents, and stem cell transplantation. 

You can find more information on MDS, its diagnosis, and the treatment options available here

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Disclaimer:
The information on the Centre For Clinical Haematology website is intended for educational use.  It should not be considered or used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment from a qualified health professional.

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    Contact Us

Locations

Contact

WhatsApp : +65 6256 8836
Email : contact@cfch.com.sg
.

Consultation Hours

Monday to Friday : 8.30am – 5.30pm
Saturday : 8.30am – 12.30pm
Closed on Sunday & Public Holidays

.

Find us on Facebook

Drop a Line

If you have any questions about your condition or would like to make an appointment, simply fill up the form and we'll contact you as soon as we can

© Centre for Clinical Haematology | 2021