Blood cancer represents a large group of different malignancies. This group includes cancers of the bone marrow, blood, and lymphatic system, which includes lymph nodes, lymphatic vessels, tonsils, thymus, spleen, and digestive tract lymphoid tissue. Leukemia and myeloma, which start in the bone marrow, and lymphoma, which starts in the lymphatic system, are the most common types of blood cancer. What causes these cancers is not known.
As leukemia and myeloma grow within the bone marrow, they can interfere with the bone marrow’s ability to produce normal blood cells, including white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. This can cause frequent infections, anemia, and easy bruising. Lymphomas, which most typically appear as enlargement of the lymph nodes, can also interfere with the body’s ability to fight infections. Additionally, myelomas generate a substance that weakens bones, and produce abnormal proteins that can cause symptoms in other parts of the body.
There are many different types of blood cancers including leukaemia, lymphoma, myeloma and rarer types such as the myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) and the myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPN).
Blood cancers can cause many different symptoms. Some are common across all blood cancers, others are more characteristic of particular types of blood cancer. For example, lymphomas can be characterised by swollen lymph nodes and one of the most common symptoms of myeloma is bone pain, especially in the back.
The vagueness and non-specific nature of the symptoms means that blood cancers can be hard to diagnose.
The common symptoms of blood cancers can include:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Feeling weak or breathless
- Easily bruise or bleed
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Swollen stomach or abdominal discomfort
- Frequent and repeated infections
- Fever/night sweats
- Pain in bones/joints
- Itchy skin
- Bone pain (ribs/back)
If you or anybody you know is experiencing any or all of these symptoms, then we urge you to visit your GP who will refer you for further tests if they suspect you have a blood cancer.
7 Cancer Symptoms Women Ignore
1. Breast changes
- Most breast lumps aren't cancer, but your doctor should always check them. Let her know about these changes, too:
- Skin dimpling or puckering
- Nipples that turn inward
- Nipple discharge
- Redness or scaling of your nipple or breast skin
To look for the cause of your symptoms, your doctor will do a physical exam and ask you questions about your medical history. You may also have tests like a mammogram or a biopsy, when doctors remove a tiny piece of tissue for testing.
"Women are natural bloaters," says Marleen Meyers, MD, an oncologist at NYU Langone Medical Center. "It's OK to wait a week or two to see if it goes away." If your symptoms don't get better with time, or if they happen with weight loss or bleeding, see a doctor. Constant bloating can sometimes mean ovarian cancer. You'll have a pelvic exam as well as blood tests, and sometimes an ultrasound, to look for the cause of the problem, Andersen says.
3. Between-Period Bleeding
If you’re still getting periods, tell your doctor if you’re spotting between them. Bleeding that’s not a part of your usual monthly cycle can have many causes, but your doctor will want to rule out endometrial cancer (cancer of the lining of your uterus). Bleeding after menopause is never normal and should be checked right away.
4: Skin Changes
A change in the size, shape, or color of a mole or other spot is a common sign of skin cancer. See your doctor for a thorough exam and perhaps a biopsy. This is one time you don't want to wait, Meyers says.
5. Blood in Your Pee or Stool
Talk to your doctor if you're bleeding from a part of your body that normally doesn't, especially if the bleeding lasts more than a day or two, Meyers says.
Bloody stool is often from hemorrhoids, but it can also be a symptom of colon cancer. Bloody urine is usually the first sign of cancer of the bladder or kidneys, says Herbert Lepor, MD, a urologist at NYU's Langone.
6. Changes in Lymph Nodes
Lymph nodes are small, bean-shaped glands around the body. Most changes in them come from common infections. But some cancers, including leukemia and lymphoma, can also cause lymph nodes to swell.
It's a good idea to see your doctor if you have a lump or swelling anywhere in your body that lasts a month or more, Meyers says.
7. Trouble Swallowing
Occasional trouble swallowing is nothing to worry about. But when it happens often, especially with vomiting or weight loss, your doctor may want to check you for throat or stomach cancer. He'll look into your symptoms with a throat exam and a barium X-ray. During a barium test, you drink a special liquid that makes your throat stand out on the X-ray.
Know the symptoms – Think T.E.S.T
Our symptoms cards are an easy way to remember the common symptoms of blood cancers.
T – Tiredness and exhaustion
E – Excessive sweating
S – Sore bones and joints
T – Terrible bruising and unusual bleeding
KNOWING THE SYMPTOMS OF A BLOOD CANCER CAN HELP SAVE LIVES.