Blood Cancer Awareness Month

Blood cancer is a term used for cancer of the bone marrow, blood and lymphatic system. Most of these cancers start in the bone marrow where the blood is produced. stem cells in the bone marrow mature and develop into 3 types of blood cells, red, white and platelets.

Blood cancers:
lymphoma: This is a a cancer of the lymphatic system. this is also known as the Hodgkin and Non Hodgkin.

  • Non Hodgkin: Non Hodgkin is a form of Lymphoma where the lymphocytes become abnormal. This is the 5th most common cancer in the UK. Lymphocytes keep dividing and grow out of control. Over time the number of lymphoma cells increases and they form a lump know as a tumour. This mostly takes place in the lymph nodes.
  • Hodgkin: Hodgkin is similar in the form of lymphoma. The difference between Hodgkin and non Hodgkin is that Hodgkin is commonly found in: under the arms, in the chest and in the groin as apposed to the lymph nodes in the Non Hodgkin.

Leukaemia: Cancer of the white blood cells. There is 2 common names given with the different forms of Leukaemia. There are acute (faster growing) and chronic (slower growing). There are four main types of Leukaemia.
Acute Lymphablastic Leukaemia: This is a rare cancer that affects over 650 people in the UK a year. This is most commonly found in children and adults up to the age of 25 and in mature adults over the age of 75. It has been found to affect males slightly more than females. White blood cells divide in your body and mature into lymphocytes. In leukaemia, this process has gone out of control and the cells continue to divide but not mature. This means that the bone marrow is filled quickly and does not have any space to make any health red or white blood cells or platelets. These immature cells are also known as lymphoblasts.
Acute Myeloid Leukaemia: also known as AML This form of leukaemia can affect people of any age but is more commonly found in people over the age of 60. Over 2,600 people in the UK each year.

AML is a cancer of the white blood cells. Normally, blood cells are made in the bone marrow in a controlled way. In people with AML, this process gets out of control and too many abnormal leukaemia cells are made. These immature cells do not develop into normal working blood cells.

In most types of AML, the leukaemia cells are immature white blood cells (blast cells). In less common types of AML, too many immature platelets or immature red blood cells are made. The immature cells fill up the bone marrow, taking up space that’s needed to make mature blood cells. This means the bone marrow is unable to make enough mature cells. Some leukaemia cells get into the blood and circulate around the body in the bloodstream. These immature leukaemia cells don’t work properly. This leads to an increased risk of infection. It can also cause symptoms such as anaemia and bruising because fewer healthy red blood cells and platelets are being made.

Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) is the most common type of leukaemia. It is more common in older people. About 3,200 people in the UK are diagnosed with it each year. CLL usually develops very slowly which is why it’s called a chronic leukaemia. Acute leukaemias develop more quickly.

Many people with CLL don’t need treatment for months or years. However, if people have symptoms, they may need treatment sooner.

CLL is a cancer of the white blood cells which develop from the lymphoid stem cells. In people with CLL, the bone marrow makes too many abnormal white blood cells called lymphocytes. When these cells are examined under a microscope, they look normal. But they aren’t fully developed (immature) and don’t work properly.

Over time, these abnormal lymphocytes build up in the lymphatic system and may cause large, swollen lymph nodes. The abnormal lymphocytes can also build up in the bone marrow. This leaves less space for normal white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets to develop.

CML is more common in middle-aged and older people.

People who have CML make too many granulocytes, a type of white blood cell. These are not fully developed and fill the bone marrow so that it can’t make healthy blood cells. The abnormal granulocytes can also collect in the spleen, an organ that stores blood cells and destroys older damaged ones.

All cells in our body contain a set of instructions that tell them how to behave. These instructions are stored inside our cells as genes. Our genes are arranged in 23 pairs of chromosomes.

CML happens when a gene from one chromosome (the ABL gene) wrongly attaches to a gene on another chromosome (the BCR gene). This means that 2 genes that should be completely separate become attached. The new gene is called the BCR-ABL gene and the altered chromosome is called the Philadelphia chromosome.

Over 95% (95 out 100) of people who have CML have the Philadelphia chromosome.


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