What do you know about blood cancer?

What do you know about blood cancer?

There are several types of blood cancer. Lymphoma, Multiple Myeloma and Leukaemia are the most common.

In Portugal, the incidence of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is 2.6 cases per 100,000 inhabitants and of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is 10.5 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

Multiple Myeloma is the second most common haematological malignancy after Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and is responsible for approximately 635 deaths annually in Portugal. The five-year survival rate for patients with Multiple Myeloma is approximately 54%.

Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma results from a progressive multiplication of lymphoid cells and the symptoms may include: enlargement of the lymph nodes in the neck, armpits or groin; fever with no explainable cause; unexplained loss of weight and appetite; night sweats; fatigue/tiredness and recurrent infections.

Its risk factors are poorly understood, but some studies show an association with Epstein-Barr virus infection (herpes family).

Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma affects mainly older people, and represents about 20% of all haemato-oncological diseases in Europe. Treatment varies according to the types of lymphoma, depending on the patient’s age, state of the disease, among other factors. Treatment options may be chemotherapy, monoclonal antibody therapy and/or radiation therapy and, in some cases, may include autologous haematopoietic transplant (the patient’s own cells).

The main difference between Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is the type of lymphocyte affected, but there are also other differences: most Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma  patients are older than 55 years, while the average age for a diagnosis of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is 39 years of age; Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma can appear anywhere in the body in the lymph nodes, while Hodgkin’s Lymphoma usually begins in the upper half of the body (neck, chest or armpits); Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is often diagnosed at an early stage and is, therefore, considered to be one of the most treatable and curable types of blood cancer, while Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is usually not diagnosed until it has reached a more advanced stage.

Multiple Myeloma develops from plasma cells (also lymphoid cells) that originate in the bone marrow. In a healthy person, plasma cells produce antibodies that help fight infection; in patients with Multiple Myeloma, due to genetic alterations, plasma cells produce large amounts of non-functional antibodies.

The main symptoms of Multiple Myeloma are: pain (especially back, rib cage and hips); bone fractures; fatigue; repeated/severe infections (pneumonia); anaemia; renal failure and increased calcium. Currently, what causes this type of blood cancer is not known, although it is known that genetic alterations in the DNA of plasma cells assume a preponderant role and are the result of exposure to certain chemicals and radiation.

The most prevalent age is 60 years, although it can appear from the age of 40. As with almost all neoplasms, age promotes the accumulation of genetic errors in cells that potentiate the appearance of cancer. The treatment of Multiple Myeloma resides in the administration of two or three chemotherapy drugs and/or immunotherapy. Bone marrow transplant may also be an option for younger patients.

Article submitted by Hospital Particular do Algarve