What is Blood Cancer?

Blood cancer is a term for any type of cancer that affects the blood, bone marrow and lymphatic system.  There are many subtypes of blood cancer. Described below are some of the more prevalent types. 

Main Types of Blood Cancer

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL)

ALL is a cancer of the bone marrow and blood. Other names for ALL are “acute lymphocytic leukemia” and “acute lymphoid leukemia.” ALL is the most common type of leukemia in children. ALL can progress rapidly without treatment, so it is important to begin treatment as soon as possible.  

Acute myeloid leukemia (AML)

AML is cancer of the bone marrow and blood. Another name for AML is “acute myelogenous leukemia.” AML is the most common acute leukemia affecting adults. AML can progress quickly if not treated, so it is important to begin treatment as soon as possible.  

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)

CLL is a cancer that begins in the bone marrow. It starts with a change to a lymphocyte (a type of cell that fights infection). CLL cells do not fight infection like normal lymphocytes do. Some people have CLL that grows slowly. They do not need drug therapy right away. Other people have CLL that grows more quickly. They do need drug therapy once their CLL is diagnosed. 

Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML)

Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) is a cancer that begins in the bone marrow. CML is also called chronic myelogenous leukemia, chronic granulocytic leukemia, and chronic myelocytic leukemia.  CML has three phases.  Most people are diagnosed in the chronic phase, when long-term drug therapy can control the CML.   

Hodgkin lymphoma (HL)

Lymphoma starts with a change to a lymphocyte (a type of white blood cell). The change to the lymphocyte causes it to become a lymphoma cell. These lymphoma cells form masses and gather in the lymph nodes or other parts of the body.  There are two main subtypes of HL. It is important to know your subtype, since each subtype has different treatments.  HL is one of the most curable forms of cancer. 

Myeloma

Myeloma is a type of cancer that begins in the bone marrow. It is a cancer of plasma cells, which are a type of white blood cells, also called plasma B cells. When myeloma is found in the marrow of many bones in a person's body, it is often called multiple myeloma.  More than 90 percent of patients with myeloma have this form of the disease. 

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL)

Lymphoma starts with a change to a lymphocyte (a type of white blood cell). The lymphoma cells form masses and they gather in the lymph nodes or other parts of the body. NHL that is slow-growing is called indolent or low-grade. NHL that is fast-growing is called aggressive or high-grade. There are over 60 types of NHL. 

To learn more, visit www.lls.org.

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