Blood Cancers

There are many illnesses treated by bone marrow transplants. This section focuses on 2 main areas: blood cancers and disorders. Your doctor will also be able to tell you more about the conditions, and advise you accordingly. Every patient is different, and treatments for each condition vary.

For certain conditions such as Acute Myelogeneous Leukaemia (AML), Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL), the need for a transplant is mostly determined by the likelihood of the disease returning – which is affected by the patient’s general health, some of the leukaemia’s features, and the risk factors.

Whereas for Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and Multiple Myeloma, factors including age, overall health, stage and growth speed of the disease will determine the risks and benefits of having a transplant. The doctor will thus determine whether a transplant is an option.

BLOOD CANCERS

There are three main groups of blood cancer: leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma. So when people talk about ‘blood cancer’ it could be any of these that affect the blood, lymphatic system and bone marrow. Unfortunately, blood cancer affects numerous of people.

LEUKAEMIA: Leukaemia affects your white blood cells – an important, infection-fighting part of your immune system, made in your bone marrow.

Acute myelogeneous leukaemia (AML)

  • Most common type of acute leukaemia.
  • Affects people of any age, occurs most amongst adults, and incidence increases with age.
  • It is the rapid growth of abnormal white blood cells that accumulate in the bone marrow and interfere with production of normal blood cells.

Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL)

  • Most common type of leukaemia in children under 15, but also affects people of any age.
  • It is the overproduction and accumulation of cancerous, immature white blood cells—known as lymphoblasts – that inhibit production of normal cells, and infiltrate other organs.

Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL)

  • Mainly an adult disease, CLL is very rare in children and young adults.
  • It is the growth of normal-looking but not fully functional white blood cells resulting in abnormal lymphocytes building up in the lymphatic system and may cause large, swollen lymph nodes.
  • Stem cell and bone marrow transplant becomes a treatment option when chemotherapy or targeted therapies fail and disease returns.

Chronic myelogeneous leukaemia (CML)

  • A common form of leukaemia that can be managed successfully through sustained drug therapy. However, once this stops working, a stem cell or bone marrow transplant is the only known cure.
  • Predominantly found amongst adults.
  • It is a slow-growing cancer of the bone marrow, typically related to the presence of an abnormal chromosome in bone marrow cells called the Philadelphia chromosome.

Juvenile myelomonocytic leukaemia (JMML)

  • Excess myelocytes and monocytes (two types of White Blood Cells) are produced from immature blood stem cells called blasts.
  • These myelocytes, monocytes, and blasts overwhelm the normal cells in the bone marrow and other organs.
  • Effective treatment of the condition usually requires a bone marrow or blood stem cell transplant

LYMPHOMA: Lymphoma affects your lymphatic system, an important part of your immune system, which helps to protect your body from infection and disease.

Hodgkin’s lymphoma

  • Orderly spread of disease from one lymph node group to another and by the development of systemic symptoms with advanced disease.
  • The need to have a transplant is decided mainly by the success of previous treatments and the patient’s overall general health.

Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL)

  • Most of the affected people are aged 60 and above.
  • A diverse group of blood cancers that includes any kind of lymphoma, except Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

MYELOMA: Myeloma is a blood cancer of the plasma cells. Plasma cells are found in your bone marrow and produce antibodies, which help fight infection.