Once you feel that something is wrong, you already have it. Every four minutes, somebody is diagnosed with a blood cancer, and about every 11 minutes, somebody passes away from one.
That’s why it is so important for medical professionals as well as people everywhere to become aware and educated about the various types of blood cancers, said Emily Marquez-Dulin. She recently joined The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) as the Executive Director for Southern Florida and Puerto Rico.
She and Monica Alvarado, a 53 year-old survivor of leukemia, recently conducted a series of phone interviews as part of an LLS awareness campaign, aimed particularly at the Hispanic community. After seeing her doctor about a strange-looking spider bite and bruising in her arms and legs, Alvarado was given a diagnosis she says she would never have expected “in a million years.”
Leukemia is cancer of the blood cells, and it starts in the bone marrow. As WebMD explains, there are different types of leukemia, and these groupings are organized based on the kind of white blood cell affected and how fast the illness gets worse. It can be acute, which means it progresses rapidly, or it can be chronic, which means it makes a patient feel sick much more slowly.
Acute lymphoblastic leukemia and chronic lymphocytic leukemia affect the lymphocytes, whereas acute myelogenous leukemia and chronic myelogenous leukemia affect the cells which become granulocytes (a type of white blood cell), platelets and red blood cells. There are also several other types of leukemia which are less common, such as hairy cell leukemia.
Not only are symptoms of these cancers very few and different in each case, but according to the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, blood cancer symptoms that do present in patients are also often dismissed as other more minor ailments like influenza or the common cold. This makes diagnosing and treating types of blood cancers a huge challenge.
Alvarado said that in addition, she also faced certain unique challenges as a Latina diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) in March 2004.