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Five Blood Cancer Myths

23 September 2021

4 minute read

Five Blood Cancer Myths

Contrary to popular belief, there are many types of blood cancers, as well as many effective treatment options. — 123rf.com

In conjunction with Blood Cancer Awareness Month this month, let’s take a look at some blood cancer myths.

The more truth we know, the less likely we are to panic and despair. Here are five of the most common beliefs that should be dismantled:

There is only one type of blood cancer, i.e. leukaemia.

Incorrect!

There are many types of blood cancers, including leukaemia – a disease that is generally more familiar to the public.

There are some that arise from the bone marrow, such as acute leukaemia (lymphoid and myeloid types), myeloproliferative neoplasm (e.g. essential thrombocythaemia and primary myelofibrosis) and multiple myeloma.

And other types arise from the lymph node glands, such as lymphoma, which itself has many different subtypes.

Leukaemia is a childhood disease.

No, leukaemia does not exclusively occur in children.

In fact, there are higher incidents of this blood cancer among senior citizens.

However, certain types of leukaemia are more frequent in certain age groups.

For example, acute lymphoblastic leukaemia has a higher incidence in young children.

Three-quarter of these cases involve children who are less than six years old.

Acute myeloid leukaemia however, occurs most frequently in adults who are more than 60 years of age, with the median age of such patients being 65 years old.

It is not common in children, accounting for less than 15% of acute leukaemia in this age group.

There is no cure for blood cancer, so all hope is lost upon diagnosis. Although a diagnosis of blood cancer is devastating, the notion that there is no cure for cancer is unfounded.

With the advancement of cancer research and drug development, we are now better at understanding this disease, including its causes, origins, pattern of development and mechanisms.

Hence, we now have improved approaches and strategies in managing cancer.

Blood cancers are generally sensitive to treatment, be it targeted therapy, chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

Therefore, for most cancer patients, there are always treatment options to be offered.

In fact, certain types of blood cancers have high remission rates, e.g. Hodgkin’s lymphoma and acute promyelocytic leukaemia.

The remission rates of these cancers can be as high as over 80% with well-tolerated therapy.

If you have blood cancer, your skin turns pale.

The symptoms and signs of blood cancer can come in a variety of forms, depending on the type of cancer. Pale skin normally indicates anaemia.

Anaemia is caused by low haemoglobin levels, which may be a sign of bone marrow failure.

Bone marrow failure is a symptom of blood cancer.

There are numerous signs and symptoms of blood cancer, including easy bruising, recurrent fever, weight loss, night sweats and enlarged glands.

Having said that, pale skin due to anaemia can also be caused by other non-cancerous illnesses.

Thus, it would be best to see a doctor for a proper investigation before jumping to conclusions as to what the illness may be.

Signs and symptoms have to be taken into context based on a proper medical history, physical examination and blood tests.

And they need to be assessed and treated by a medical professional, not through self-diagnosis or self-medication.

All blood cancer patients need a bone marrow transplant.

Not true.

As a matter of fact, the majority of blood cancer patients have no need of a bone marrow transplant.

Most patients will be treated with combined and risk-adapted therapy, which may include targeted therapy, chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy.

Of course, there are certain types of blood cancers, e.g. acute myeloid leukaemia, that will require a bone marrow transplant.

As this is such an intensive treatment, this course will be discussed at length between the patient, the patient’s family and the doctor.

If you are experiencing any possible symptoms of blood cancer, speak to our hemotologist for any professional advice and enquiries.

This article first appeared in The Star, 15 September 2021.

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23 September 2021

4 minute read

Five Blood Cancer Myths

Dr. Habibah Binti Abdul Halim

Internal Medicine And Hematology

Learn more about Internal Medicine And Hematology in Columbia Asia

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