Leukemia, which is the cancer of the white blood cells. It is the most prevalent type of blood cancer amongst children under the age of 15.


Q:What is Blood Cancer?


Ans:It is the occurrence of cancerous cells in the blood. In most cases blood cancer begins in the bone marrow which is where blood is produced. Blood cancer is often the result of abnormal/ excessive production of white blood cells.


Q:What are the types of Blood Cancer?


Ans:Blood Cancer is broadly divided into 3 types. First there is Leukemia which is the cancer of the white blood cells. It is the most prevalent type of blood cancer amongst children under the age of 15. Next there is Lymphoma which is cancer of the lymphatic system and affects a certain type of white blood cells called the lymphocytes. It is the most common type of blood cancer amongst adults. The third type is Myeloma which is cancer of the plasma cells in blood. It affects the immune system and makes the body highly susceptible to infection. Leukemia can be further divided into 2 subtypes – acute which is fast growing and needs immediate treatment and chronic which is slow growing.


Q:What are the symptoms of Blood Cancer?


Ans:Weight loss, bleeding gums, swollen lymph nodes, fever, chills, extreme fatigue, abdominal pain, bone pain and dark spots or rashes are some symptoms that need to be immediately checked with the doctor.


Q:How to prevent blood cancer through lifestyle changes?


Ans:Quit using tobacco-based products. Smoking tobacco is detrimental to health and is linked to several cancers. Hence quitting the habit is the first step towards reclaiming good health. Staying active, eating a healthy diet and maintaining a healthy body weight is also important to reduce risk of cancer and other diseases.


Q:What environmental factors impact prevention of blood cancer?


Ans:Avoid exposure to benzene and formaldehyde. Benzene is present in several products such as paints, varnish, resin, some glues, plastics, pesticides and even in tobacco. Formaldehyde is commonly used in medical labs and at home it is found in pressed wood products, some air fresheners and upholstery. Radon exposure and certain pesticides that we use at home for gardening are also cancer causing. It is important to be aware of the presence of these chemicals in the products we buy and in the environment that we live in. Prolonged exposure can lead to blood cancer. If your workplace increases your risk to exposure to any of these carcinogenic chemicals, be sure to use appropriate protective gear.


Q:Should pregnant women take extra precaution to protect their baby from blood cancer?


Ans:Some studies indicate that babies born to women who were exposed to benzene and pesticides while they were pregnant are at risk of leukemia. Pregnant women should avoid smoking and drinking alcohol as well, to reduce their baby’s risk of leukemia.


Dr. Dominic Joseph is a medical oncologist in Chennai
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