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What is blood cancer?

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Quick Answer

Blood cancers impact the production and function of blood cells, says the American Society of Hematology. Most begin in the bone marrow where normal blood cell development is interrupted by the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells. There are three categories of blood cancer: leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma.

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What is blood cancer?
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Full Answer

These cancers affect different components of the blood and lymph, according to Mount Sinai Hospital. Leukemias affect maturing white blood cells. These cells proliferate in the bone marrow and eventually crowd out healthy blood cells. Leukemia can be either acute or chronic. Lymphomas affect the lymphatic system, a subset of the circulatory system. There are two broad types: Hodgkin's and non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. In Hodgkin's disease, the cancer spreads from one group of lymph nodes to another in an orderly fashion. It is also marked by the presence of abnormal Reed-Sternberg cells in the lymph nodes, notes Cancer Treatment Centers of America. In non-Hodgkin's disease, the cancer spreads through the lymph nodes more randomly. Myelomas affect plasma cells in the bone marrow.

Blood cancer symptoms are often non-specific but can include fever with chills; persistent tiredness and weakness; night sweats; unexplained weight loss; swollen lymph nodes; frequent infections; shortness of breath; and itchy skin, says Cancer Treatment Centers of America.

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