September is a time of new beginnings, as summer fades and autumn arrives. But it’s also a time for awareness and advocacy.
September is Blood Cancer Awareness Month, which might be a great opportunity for advocates and supporters to raise awareness about important research funds for the fight against blood cancers, such as leukemia and lymphoma.
It’s easy for those unaffected by cancer to forget about the individuals who may deal with this disease on a daily basis, so bringing attention to the cause is an important step we can all take.
What is blood cancer?
Blood cancers, also called hematologic cancers, often begin in the bone marrow, where blood is produced. Normal blood cells fight off infection and produce new blood cells for the body.
Blood cancer develops when abnormal blood cells start growing out of control, interrupting the normal function of blood cells and leaving patients without enough blood cells to properly fight infections.
Though there are many different types of blood cancer, two main types include:
- Leukemia: Leukemia originates in the blood and bone marrow, developing when the body produces too many abnormal white blood cells. These abnormal cells interfere with the bone marrow’s ability to produce red blood cells and platelets.
- Lymphoma: Lymphoma originates in the lymphatic system. It develops when a type of white blood cell, called lymphocytes, begin to grow out of control and disrupt normal blood functions.
Signs and symptoms of blood cancer
Since the month of September is dedicated to spreading awareness about blood cancers, it makes sense to understand the common signs and symptoms of the disease. Knowing these symptoms allows patients and their doctors to identify blood cancers early, which is an important key to effective treatment.
Some of the most common signs of blood cancer include:
- Trouble breathing or shortness of breath
- Chronic cough
- Chronic chest pain
- Coughing up blood or mucus
Treatments for blood cancer
While researchers have not been able to develop a cure for blood cancer, experts have been able to develop a few treatment options to help patients fight these types of cancer.
Leukemia treatments and lymphoma treatments will be similar, with most specialists suggesting one or more of the following options:
- Bone marrow transplant
An innovative ‘living drug’ therapy for blood cancers
Getting a diagnosis of cancer can be devastating, but there is still hope on the horizon. Medical science is making advancements every day, with researchers working tirelessly to find effective treatments.
One such treatment for blood cancers is called CAR T-Cell therapy, and it’s only available at specially certified hospitals, such as Henry Ford Cancer Institute in Michigan. This therapy can be used to treat B-cell acute lymphocytic leukemia and diffuse large B-cell lymphoma.
CAR T-Cell therapy uses engineered cells from a patient’s immune system to destroy cancer. These altered cells remain active for years after the treatment, acting as a “living drug” to help the patient continue to fight off cancer cells.
Though the treatment is still in its early stages and only available at certified hospitals, it is showing positive effects in the fight against blood cancer.
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