The incidence of blood cancers is rising in India with no conclusive data to show the number of cases reported. However, a report prepared by World Health Organisation’s International Agency, GLOBOCAN for Research on Cancer, released in 2012, says that India has the third highest number of haematological cancer patients in the world after the United States and China. Dr Neeraj Sidhardhan, bone marrow transplantation specialist and Associate Professor of AIMS, Kochi, explains all kinds of blood cancers and their treatment.
Haematological cancers mainly cover Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (blood-cell tumours), various types of leukaemias (blood cancers) and multiple myeloma (cancer of plasma cells). Among the top 20 cancers that affected the Indian population in 2012, leukemia ranked at nine. It affected an estimated 32,000 men and women in the country that year and caused 26,000 deaths. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, meanwhile, ranked 13, with 23,000 fresh cases and 16,000 deaths reported.
Blood cancer is a term for cancers that affect the blood, bone marrow and lymphatic system. There are three main groups of blood cancers: leukaemia, lymphoma, and myeloma. (a) Leukemia is a cancer in our blood and bone marrow and caused by the rapid production of abnormal white blood
cells. There are high numbers of abnormal white blood cells which are not able to fight infection, and they impair the ability of the bone marrow to produce normal red blood cells and platelets.
(b) Lymphoma is a blood cancer that affects the lymphatic system, which removes excess fluids from the body and produces immune cells. Lymphocytes are white blood cells that fight infection. Abnormal lymphocytes become lymphoma cells, which multiply and collect in lymph nodes and other tissues. Over time, these cancerous cells impair the immune system.
(c) Myeloma is a cancer of the plasma cells. Plasma cells are white blood cells that produce disease-fighting and infection-fighting antibodies in the body. Myeloma cells (abnormal plasma cells) prevent the normal production of antibodies, leaving the body’s immune system weakened and
susceptible to infection.
There are mainly four main types of leukaemia and two types of lymphoma. They are:
• Acute myeloid leukaemia (AML): It affects around 2,600 adults a year in the UK and 19,000 in the US. It is most common in people over 65, though people of any age can get it.
• Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL): This is the most common type of leukaemia in children. ALL affects around 650 people a year in the UK and 6,000 a year in the US. About half the cases are in adults and half in children.
• Chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML): It is a rare condition, and about 700 people every year are affected in the UK and around 6000 per year in the US.
• Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL): Doctors diagnose just over 3,200 people with CLL a year in the UK and around 15,000 people in the US. It is much more common to get it if one is over 60, and is very rare in people under 40.
While the average rate of incidence in India is lower than that in the United States, population-based cancer registry shows an alarming rise in cases of blood cancer in Mumbai and Delhi. The figures in the rural areas, however, are still much lower. The overall survival rates for all blood cancers
have significantly increased over the past decades.
(Read the full article from the October 2015 issue of the Safety Messenger Magazine)