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What is blood cancer?

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blood cancer

Blood cancer comes in a few different forms. There are three main groups of blood cancer including, leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma. Each type affecting the blood, bone marrow and lymphatic system.

Leukaemia affects your white blood cells, made in your bone marrow. Leukaemia patients produce an abnormal number of immature white blood cells which ‘clog up’ your bone marrow and stop it making other blood cells vital for a balanced immune system and healthy blood.

Acute leukemia comes on suddenly, progresses quickly and needs to be treated urgently. Chronic leukemia develops more slowly, over months or years.

Lymphoma is a type of blood cancer that affects your lymphatic system. If you have lymphoma it means you make too many lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell. Your lymphocytes also live longer than they should. This overload compromises your immune system.

Lymphoma can develop in many parts of your body, including your lymph nodes, bone marrow, blood, spleen and other organs.

Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS)
The myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) are a group of blood disorders where a person’s bone marrow is not producing the correct amount and quality of blood cells. Red, white and platelet cells can be affected.

Symptoms make you very tired, weak and bleed or bruise more easily. There are different levels of severity of MDS; it’s not a type of leukaemia but can sometimes lead to acute myeloid leukaemia. MDS is rare – about 4 in every 100,000 people get MDS. It mainly affects older people, and is more common in people over 70 years old.

September is Blood Cancer awareness month. If you have questions about blood cancers, ask your doctor for more information.