There are three different types of blood cells in your body: red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Blood cancer interferes with the normal production and functioning of these cells.
Red blood cells are responsible for transporting oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body. Your blood also transports nutrients from the food you eat, carries waste products to your kidneys and liver, and regulates your body temperature.
Blood carries white blood cells and antibodies to fight infection, and platelets to form clots that prevent you from bleeding.
Blood cancers often start in the bone marrow, affecting the stem cells responsible for producing your blood cells. They may affect the lymphatic system so your body is unable to fight infections.
Blood cancers cause uncontrolled or abnormal growth of certain types of blood cells, leading to overcrowding. The production of normal cells becomes affected, and the smooth functioning of our bodies is disrupted.
There are three main types of blood cancers.
Leukemia is a type of blood cancer that causes large numbers of white blood cells to be produced in the bone marrow. This affects the body’s ability to fight infection.
These excessive numbers of leukemic cells can crowd out normal blood cells leading to anemia, bleeding and infections. The abnormal cells can also spread to the lymph nodes and other organs causing swelling and pain.
There are four main types of leukemia, two acute and two chronic.
- Acute lymphocytic leukemia, or ALL
- Acute myelogenous leukemia, or AML
- Chronic lymphocytic leukemia, or CLL
- Chronic myelogenous leukemia, or CML
Lymphocytic means it affects a type of white blood cell called lymphocytes. Myelogenous means that nonlymphocytic cells are affected, such as red blood cells, platelets or granulocytes (a type of white blood cell).
ALL and AML are the most common in children. AML and CML are the most common in adults.