Blood cancers are a group of cancers that affect the blood and blood-related tissues and organs such as the bone marrow, lymph nodes, thymus, spleen and liver. The five major categories of blood cancers are: leukemia, lymphoma, myeloma, myeloproliferative disorders and myelodysplastic syndromes.
Leukemia is a term used to refer to a group of cancers that affects the blood and bone marrow (the soft spongy tissue inside bones where blood cells are produced). Leukemias are a very heterogeneous group of blood cancers and they differ from one another in the underlying cause or pathway of development, prognosis and responsiveness to treatment.
Lymphoma refers to a group of cancers that affect a type of white cells called lymphocytes. Lymphomas are the most common blood cancers worldwide. There are two main broad types of lymphoma: Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin. These 2 broad types of lymphoma are further subdivided into specific subtypes based on specific additional characteristics.
Myeloma (also known as multiple myeloma or plasma cell myeloma) is a type of blood cancer that develops from plasma cells (a type of white cells in the bone marrow). Plasma cells produce proteins called “antibodies” which help to fight infections. In contrast, myeloma cells produce abnormal proteins called “paraproteins” which are non functional but can deposit in the body causing tissue or organ damage.
Myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs) are a group of blood cancers characterised by an overproduction of cells in the myeloid line of development which include certain types of white cell, red cells and platelets. According to the World Health Organization classification of myeloid neoplasms, depending on the type of blood cells overproduced, there are 4 common types of MPNs.
Myelodysplastic Syndromes (MDS) are a group of diverse bone marrow disorders in which the bone marrow does not produce enough healthy blood cells. MDS is often referred to as a “bone marrow failure disorder”. MDS is primarily a disease of the elderly (most patients are older than age 65), but MDS can affect younger patients as well.