Blood cancer

Blood cancer

Blood cancer or blood cancer is a condition when blood cells turn abnormal or malignant. Most of these cancers start in the bone marrow where blood cells are produced. Blood cancer is divided into three, namely leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma .

Unlike most cancers, blood cancers generally do not form solid lumps (tumors). Symptoms of blood cancer are also non-specific so they can resemble the symptoms of other diseases.

Blood consists of a number of components with different functions, namely:

  • Red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout the body
  • White blood cells, function to form antibodies and fight infection
  • Platelet cells (platelets), play a role in the process of blood clotting
  • Blood plasma, serves to carry blood cells along with proteins and nutrients throughout the body, as well as to remove metabolic waste from the body

Blood cancer can result in the number of blood components being below normal or even excessive. This condition can cause the function of other body organs to be disturbed.

Causes of Blood Cancer

Blood cancer occurs when blood cells mutate (change) and become cancerous. These changes cause cells to grow abnormally and uncontrollably. Different from normal blood cells, blood cells affected by cancer lose their function to clot blood and fight infection.

Based on the type of blood cell and where the cancer appears, blood cancer can be divided into three, namely:


Leukemia occurs when cells in the bone marrow do not develop normally. Unlike normal white blood cells, which die, leukemia cells continue to live, but they don't help the body fight infection and instead suppress the growth of other blood cells.

When the number increases, leukemia cells will enter the bloodstream and spread to other organs of the body, then block normal cells in the body to function normally.


Lymphoma attacks lymphocytes, which are white blood cells that function to fight infection and get rid of metabolic wastes. In addition to the bone marrow, lymphocytes are found in the lymph nodes, thymus gland, spleen, and almost all parts of the body.

In patients with lymphoma, lymphocytes mutate and grow uncontrollably. If the lymphocytes are attacked by cancer, the immune system will decrease so that they are more susceptible to infection.

Multiple myeloma

Multiple myeloma is a cancer that attacks plasmocytes, which are part of the white blood cells in charge of producing antibodies to fight infection. When antibody production is disrupted, a person will be susceptible to infection.

Multiple myeloma occurs when abnormal plasma cells appear in the bone marrow and grow rapidly. These abnormal cells continue to produce antibodies that cause damage to organs, such as bones and kidneys.

Blood cancer risk factors

The exact cause of blood cancer is not known, but there are several factors that can increase a person's risk of developing blood cancer, namely:

  • Male gender
  • Over 55 years old
  • Have a family who suffers from blood cancer
  • Suffering from immune system disorders, such as HIV/AIDS
  • Taking immunosuppressant drugs
  • Infected with Epstein-Barr virus or H. pylori bacteria
  • Exposure to chemical compounds, such as pesticides
  • Have a smoking habit

Symptoms of Blood Cancer

Symptoms of blood cancer are very diverse, depending on the type of blood cancer suffered. In some cases, the symptoms can be difficult to identify, because they are similar to the symptoms of other conditions, such as the flu . However, common symptoms of blood cancer can include:

  • Fever and chills
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation or difficulty defecating
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Body tired easily
  • Sweating at night
  • Drastic weight loss
  • Red spots on the skin
  • Frequently infected
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpits, or groin
  • Pain in the joints and bones, especially the spine or breastbone
  • Easy bruising and bleeding, such as nosebleeds
  • Hard to breathe

When to go to the doctor

Check with your doctor if you experience the above symptoms, especially if they often recur or do not improve. By getting checked early, doctors can immediately provide treatment so that the development of the disease can be prevented.

Patients with blood cancer are expected to continue to control with a hematologist , both currently on treatment and after treatment is completed. The goal is that disease progression continues to be monitored and detected early if the disease reappears.

As mentioned above, smoking is one of the risk factors for blood cancer. If you smoke and have difficulty quitting, talk to your doctor about taking a smoking cessation program.

Exposure to nuclear radiation and chemicals in the work environment is also at risk of causing blood cancer. As a precaution, each company has its own regulations regarding employee medical check - ups . Every employee is advised to follow the procedure periodically.

Blood Cancer Diagnosis

The doctor will begin the examination by asking about the patient's symptoms, then perform a physical examination to look for some signs of blood cancer, such as pale skin due to anemia , or swelling of the lymph nodes, liver, and spleen .

If the patient is suspected of having blood cancer, the doctor will perform the following examinations:

blood test

The doctor will perform a complete blood count test to determine the number of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. The suspicion of blood cancer will be stronger if the number of one or all types of blood cells is too much or too little, and abnormally shaped blood cells are found.

In addition to a complete blood count, the doctor will check protein profiles, such as globulins, serum protein electrophoresis , and immunofixation, to detect multiple myeloma and the level of aggressiveness of cancer cells.

In patients with multiple myeloma , blood tests are also performed to determine kidney function , calcium levels, and uric acid levels.

Bone marrow aspiration

Bone marrow aspiration is performed by taking a tissue sample from the patient's bone marrow using a thin needle. The tissue sample will then be examined in a laboratory to see disturbances in the 'blood factory' and determine the type of blood cancer that attacks the patient.

Lymph node biopsy

A lymph node biopsy is performed by taking a tissue sample from a swollen lymph node. Next, the tissue sample will be examined under a microscope.

Blood Cancer Treatment

After the patient is confirmed to have blood cancer, the doctor will discuss with the patient the treatment steps that need to be taken. The treatment method that will be chosen depends on the type of cancer, as well as the age and overall health condition of the patient.

The following are available treatment methods to treat blood cancer:

  • Chemotherapy , which is the administration of drugs to kill cancer cells, such as chlorambucil , can be taken orally or by injection
  • Radiotherapy , which is a treatment that uses special radiation to destroy cancer cells and inhibit their growth
  • Bone marrow transplant , to replace damaged bone marrow with healthy bone marrow

Blood Cancer Complications

Blood cancer can cause serious complications if left untreated. Some of these complications are:

  • The body often gets infections due to a lack of white blood cells
  • Bleeding that can be life-threatening, especially if it occurs in the brain, lungs, stomach, and intestines
  • Disorders in the bones, including pain, calcification, to fractures
  • Decreased kidney function or even kidney failure

Blood Cancer Prevention

There is no known way to prevent blood cancer. However, the risk of this disease can be reduced by:

  • Stop smoking
  • Increase consumption of nutritious healthy food
  • Maintain ideal body weight with regular exercise
  • Follow safety procedures and use personal protective equipment (PPE) when working in an environment that is at risk of exposure to radiation and chemical compounds, such as formaldehyde, pesticides , and benzene
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