Every three minutes, an American is diagnosed with blood cancer – that means this year alone, over 175,000 people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with the disease, according to the Leukemia Research Foundation. But over the past 20 years, thanks to groundbreaking research and advocacy efforts, great strides have been made to improve life expectancy and raise awareness about blood cancers. That’s why this Blood Cancer Awareness Month, Steward is standing with patients fighting this disease and encouraging people not to overlook early warning signs and symptoms.
Blood cancers often start in the bone marrow, when abnormal white blood cells overtake normal red blood cells, interrupting the process of producing healthy red blood cells and making it harder to fight infections. While there are over 100 different types of blood cancers, the four leading types are leukemia, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Hodgkin’s lymphoma and myeloma. Family history, as well as exposure to high doses of ionizing radiation, are thought to be leading causes of several types of blood cancer.
The reality is blood cancer is the third leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. and one-third of patients diagnosed with blood cancers do not survive more than five years. Even so, survival rates for many forms of blood cancer have risen by almost 25 percent in recent decades, due in large part to groundbreaking research discoveries that have yielded advances in cures and treatments. Breakthroughs in immunotherapy, genomics and personalized medicine continue to lead the way to more drug approvals and treatments – welcome news for those suffering from blood cancer.
Like so many cancers, there is still no cure for blood cancer – but early intervention can be lifesaving for many patients. That’s why it’s critical that we continue to raise awareness about how to spot the early warning signs, which include (but are not limited to) extreme fatigue and weakness, bone and joint pain, loss of appetite or nausea, night sweats, abdominal discomfort and swelling of lymph nodes. Other symptoms include headaches, frequent nosebleeds and infections, itchy skin, fever, chills, and unexplained weight loss.