About the Condition
Blood cancers affect the production and function of your blood cells. Most of these cancers start in your bone marrow where blood is produced. Stem cells in your bone marrow mature and develop into three types of blood cells:
- red blood cells – which carry oxygen around the body
- white blood cells – which help fight infection
- platelets – which help the blood to clot, stopping bleeding
In most blood cancers, the normal blood cell development process is interrupted by uncontrolled growth of an abnormal type of blood cell. These abnormal blood cells, or cancerous cells, prevent your blood from performing many of its functions, like fighting off infections or preventing serious bleeding.
There are three main types of blood cancers:
- Leukaemia, which is a type of cancer found in your blood and bone marrow, is caused by the rapid production of abnormal white blood cells which are not able to fight infection, and impair the ability of the bone marrow to produce red blood cells and platelets.
- Lymphoma, which is a type of blood cancer that affects the lymphatic system, which removes excess fluids from your body and produces immune cells known as lymphocytes. These cells are a type of white blood cell that fight infection. Lymphoma occurs when the genetic material in the lymphocytes mutates, causing abnormal lymphocytes which then become lymphoma cells, which multiply and collect in your lymph nodes and other tissues. Over time, these cancerous cells impair your immune system.
- Myeloma is a type of blood cancer that specifically targets your plasma cells. Plasma cells are white blood cells that produce disease- and infection-fighting antibodies in your body. Myeloma cells prevent the normal production of antibodies, leaving your body’s immune system weakened and susceptible to infection.
Every year, around 30,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with some form of blood cancer.
Blood Cancers Consultants