The three cancers that make up the majority of blood cancers are leukemia, lymphoma and multiple myeloma. In some cases, these diseases aren't detected until a patient has bloodwork done as part of a routine medical exam. In other cases, a patient may experience various symptoms that prompts his doctor to run blood tests.
Leukemia is a cancer blood in which leukemic cells gradually or suddenly kill off healthy blood cells. In acute leukemia, the change is rapid; in chronic leukemia, the change is usually more gradual. Symptoms of acute leukemia include fatigue and shortness of breath when doing routine activities; fever and night sweats; unexplained bruising; slower than normal healing of cuts; and aching joints. Blood tests show low white blood cell counts.
Patients with chronic leukemia may not show any symptoms. Those who do may notice a swollen lymph node or have a lot of infections. Patients may also notice that they're more tired than usual, shortness of breath, gradual weight loss, or night sweats. Blood tests show high levels of lymphocytes.
Lymphoma is cancer of the lymph nodes and lymph cells. It is classified into two groups: Hodgkin's disease and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Hodgkin's disease is much less common than non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Symptoms of each include painless swelling of a lymph node, weight loss, fever, chills and night sweats. Those with Hodgkin's disease may suffer from itching and a loss of appetite. Non-Hodgkin's sufferers may experience a fullness or pressure in the abdomen, coughing and chest pain, and fatigue.
Multiple myeloma is a cancer of the plasma in the blood. Blood tests in a person with multiple myeloma show many abnormal plasma cells. Patients in the early stages of this disease may not notice any symptoms. As the disease progresses, symptoms include kidney problems, pain in the ribs or back, fatigue from low levels of iron, recurring infection, and tingling or numbness. Myeloma can cause a thickening of the blood, causing the patient to experience shortness of breath, chest pain and confusion.