Cancer Types | Blood Cancer - National Foundation for Cancer Research

Blood Cancers

Blood Cancers

There are three main types of blood cancers. Leukemia is a cancer found in your blood and bone marrow, lymphoma is a blood cancer that affects the lymphatic system and myeloma is a blood cancer that specifically targets plasma cells. Each year, these types of cancer account for approximately 10% of all new cancer diagnoses.

Key Facts

  • An estimated 186,400 new cases of leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma will be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2021, with 57,750 deaths expected to result from the diagnosis.
  • Every three minutes, one person in the U.S. is diagnosed with a blood cancer.
  • Leukemias are the most common cancers in children and account for 28% of all childhood cancers.
  • More than 1.2 million people in the U.S. are either living with or in remission today from a blood cancer.
Source: American Cancer Society’s Cancer Facts & Figures 2021 and The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

Signs and Symptoms

A symptom is a change in the body that a person can see and/or feel. A sign is a change that the doctor sees during an examination or on a laboratory test result. If you have any of the symptoms below, it does not mean you have cancer but you should see your doctor or health care professional so that the cause can be found and treated, if needed.

Leukemia

  • Feeling tired, weak, dizzy or lightheaded
  • Headaches
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pale skin
  • Bruises (or small red or purple spots) on the skin
  • Bleeding, such as frequent or severe nosebleeds, bleeding gums, or heavy menstrual bleeding in women
  • Swelling in the face, neck, arms, and upper chest (sometimes with a bluish-red color)
  • Weight loss; Loss of appetite
  • Fever; Night sweats
  • Swelling in the abdomen
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Bone or joint pain
  • Infections that don’t go away or keep coming back

Lymphoma

  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Drenching night sweats
  • Fever without an infection
  • Weight loss
  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Shortness of breath or cough
  • Severe or frequent infections
  • Swollen abdomen (belly)
  • Feeling full after only a small meal
  • Easy bruising or bleeding

Myeloma

  • Persistent or worsening tiredness
  • Recurrent unexplained infections (such as pneumonia, sinus infection, or urinary tract infection)
  • Back pain or any bone pain that is persistent or recurrent
  • Swelling of the extremities
  • Shortness of breath
Source: American Cancer Society’s website and Leukemia and Lymphoma Society website 2021
Blood Cancer Location
186400
estimated new cases in 2021
57750
expected deaths in 2021
28
% of all childhood cancers
Blood Cancers Awareness Ribbon

Blood Cancer Awareness Month is recognized in September. To help accelerate cures please make a gift today.

Researchers Working on Blood Cancer

Curt Civin, M.D.
Curt Civin, M.D.
Michael B. Sporn, M.D.
Michael B. Sporn, M.D.
Cesare Spadoni, Ph.D.
Cesare Spadoni, Ph.D.
Wei Zhang, Ph.D.
Wei Zhang, Ph.D.

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Multiple Myeloma: A Rare But Very Real Cancer

On May 23, 2018, my mother, Susan Williams, was admitted to UNC Rex Hospital in our home town of Raleigh, North Carolina, after being told that some “abnormalities” had shown up in her blood test. Several months earlier, my mom experienced excruciating pain around her rib cage and back that caused her to eventually become immobile. She met with multiple specialists to get opinions on what might be wrong. She was told it was probably a pulled muscle, maybe potential nerve damage, even osteoporosis. That is when we finally found out she had several fractures in her ribs, pelvis, and multiple crushed vertebrae. This explained the pain she endured. However, It wasn’t until that day in May when we finally got the answer we had been waiting for. The dreadful diagnosis that would change our family and, more greatly, my mom’s life forever. Multiple Myeloma is a cancer of the plasma cells which are white blood cells that help fight infection and are made in the bone marrow. The more of these cells that have myeloma, the more severe the symptoms are for patients; such as weak bones and a higher risk of infection— which often is what will lead to their demise. There is currently no cure for Multiple Myeloma. There are standard treatment options available to help manage the progression. A common treatment is a Stem Cell Transplant or Bone Marrow Transplant, where patients are dosed with intense chemotherapy that will hopefully kill the myeloma cells and replace enough of them with healthy cells. The majority of Myeloma patients will only need to have this transplant once. My mother was an exception. She had to go through it twice. After transplant, patients will often try different maintenance chemotherapies until one keeps their myeloma cell counts low and manageable. Multiple Myeloma never reaches remission because the disease is always in the blood and most likely will come back. Again, there is no cure. Learn more about Multiple Myeloma on NFCR’s blog here. Spreading awareness about this disease is crucial because it is difficult to diagnose correctly let alone detect early. It is also hard to track how well patients will respond to treatments and if treatment will even work at all, which is a discouraging fate my mom has been faced with. There are still a lot of unknowns about this cancer and we need to support research to be able to answer those questions. Every day we constantly prepare for the worst. Our hope is that my mom will be able to see the day when advancements in cancer research will save her life. March is Multiple Myeloma Awareness Month and I truly believe that awareness may help bring a cure someday.  It’s heartbreaking seeing someone you love suffer every day. We are faced with overwhelming feelings of helplessness when we can’t take their pain away. I wanted to do something more to help my mom which is what motivated me to volunteer my time to help the National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR) and their mission – Research for a Cure. Everyone has something to give to […]