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Cancers that develop in your bone marrow

Published: 20 Nov 2019

November is National Marrow Awareness Month in the US.  There are several types of cancer that develop in the bone marrow including multiple myeloma, leukemia, and lymphoma.  People that are diagnosed will often require a transplant to replace diseased cells. The tricky part is finding a well-matched donor, which is critical for a successful transplant. This is why it’s so important to raise awareness and encourage more people to donate marrow. The more people that donate, the more lives will be saved.

What is bone marrow?

Bone marrow is the sponge-like material inside your bones.  It contains the important stem cells, which can develop into red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.  Bone marrow cancer occurs when the cells within the marrow begin to grow abnormally or at a faster rate.   

Facts we found:   

Types of bone marrow cancer

Multiple myeloma

This is the most common type of bone marrow cancer.  It starts in the plasma, white blood cells that make antibodies to protect your body from foreign invaders. Tumors develop if your body starts to produce too many plasma cells, which can lead to bone loss and a decreased ability to fight infections.

Symptoms may include weakness and fatigue due to a shortage of red blood cells (anemia), bleeding and bruising due to low blood platelets (thrombocytopenia), infections due to a shortage of normal white blood cells (leukopenia) as well a feeling thirsty, loss of appetite and drowsiness.

Leukemia

The body produces abnormal blood cells that don’t die off as they should. As the abnormal cells grow, they flood the normal white and red blood cells, and the platelets, stopping them from functioning properly.

Symptoms may include weakness and fatigue, shortness of breath, fever, body aches, bone aches, unexplained weight loss, night sweats, frequent and unexplained bruising and prolonged bleeding from small wounds.

Lymphoma  

Lymphoma happens when the lymphocytes grow out of control, forming tumors and making it difficult for your immune system to do its job. There are two main types of lymphoma:

Symptoms are similar to leukemia but may also include a persistent cough, itchy skin, lymph node pain after consuming alcohol, abdominal pain, rashes or skin lumps, frequent nosebleeds, tiny red dots on the skin (petechiae)

What causes bone marrow cancer?

It isn’t clear what causes bone marrow cancer. Some studies with children have shown that a combination of genetic and environmental factors are involved.  Each of us have genes that are able to rid the body of harmful chemicals.  Scientists believe that some children may not inherit those particular gene versions, so when they’re exposed to those chemicals, they have a higher risk of developing leukemia than the rest of us.  

In general, scientists believe that a mixture of the following may put people at increased risk of developing all forms of bone marrow cancer:

How is bone marrow cancer diagnosed?

Symptoms for bone marrow cancer are often vague and could be mistaken for other conditions. Often these types of cancers are only discovered when other more likely diagnoses have been tested and ruled out.

If you believe you have any signs symptoms, go to your doctor.  They will review your medical history and give you a complete physical examination.  Depending on those findings and your symptoms, they may suggest you have further tests, which may involve:

What’s the treatment?

Treatment for bone marrow cancer will be personal, based on the specific type and stage of cancer at diagnosis, as well as any other health considerations. They may include:

Outlook for bone marrow cancer

Some types of bone marrow cancer are much more aggressive than others. As with all cancers, the earlier you catch it, the better your chances for survival. Outlook largely depends on your overall health, age, and how well you respond to treatment.

If you or anyone close to you is affected by any of the cancers related to bone marrow,  join the Facebook Chemotherapy Support Group and share your experiences, ask questions and receive love and support from over 6,000 members from across the globe.


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