Written by: Ann P Sorgent RN, BSN Clinical Supervisor – Agnesian Cancer Center
Perhaps it is appropriate that September happens to be Blood Cancer Awareness Month since this type of cancer so often seems to strike children as well as adults. As we ready our children to go back to school, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society reminds us that September is Lymphoma and Leukemia Month, as well as National Blood Cancer Awareness Month.
What are blood cancers? Leukemia, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Myeloma and Myelodysplastic syndromes are types of cancer that affect the blood cells, bone marrow, lymph nodes or other parts of the lymphatic system. Within each of these diagnoses, there are a variety of sub-types of cancer. For example, leukemia, the most common blood cancer, has four major types, including Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL), Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL), Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML), and Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML).
According to the American Cancer Society, one person in the United States is diagnosed with a blood cancer approximately every four minutes. Although affecting approximately 10 times more adults than children, Leukemia is the most common type of cancer among children.
There is cause to celebrate, though. At the end of the 20th century, there were dramatic improvements in survival rates for these previously devastating cancers. More than 50 individual drugs are used to treat people with blood cancers, and there are clinical trials studying potential new therapies. Many of these drugs are used to treat several types of blood cancer. In addition, the use of stem cell and bone marrow transplantation also offers improved treatment options and improved survival.