Lymphoma, Leukaemia & Myeloma are three different types of blood cancers. Like other cancers, they develop when a group of cells in the body start to grow in a way that is out of control. The cells might be dividing too quickly or surviving longer than their normal lifespan, so they build up in large numbers. In a interview, Dr Avinash Kumar, Consultant Hemato-Oncology & Bone Marrow Transplant Specialist, Paras Cancer Centre, Patna highlights the difference between these different types of cancers on the basis of their origin, classification, causes, symptoms, and diagnosis.
Q1. How do Lymphoma , Leukemia & Myeloma differ from each other?
Cancers differ mainly on their type of origin. These is the main aspect of difference for blood cancers.
- Leukemia: It is the cancer of the blood that originates from the bone marrow. It is mostly seen with the white blood cells, where they divide abnormally, resulting in very high counts of these cells. Leukemia can occur either in the lymphoid or myeloid white cells, ad can also occur abruptly such as in days or weeks (acute) or may persist for a long time (chronic). Hence we may have lymphoid or myeloid leukemia and it could be either acute or chronic.
- Lymphoma : Lymphoma originates in the lymphatic system, usually in the lymph glands or nodes. It arises when the developing lymphocytes undergo a malignant change and multiply uncontrollably.
- Myeloma: In myeloma, plasma cells (antibody producing cells) undergo a cancerous change.
Q2. How are Lymphoma , Leukemia & Myeloma further classified?
- Leukemia: There are four types of leukemia – acute myeloid leukemia (AML), chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) or chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL).
- Lymphoma : Lymphomas are of two types – Hodgkins Lymphoma (HL) and Non- Hodgkins Lymphoma (NHL). NHL is more common than HL.
- Myeloma or Multiple Myeloma : There is no such classification for this type of cancer.
Q3. What are the common cause of these blood cancers?
Like all cancers, Lymphoma, Leukemia & Myeloma, result from a change (mutation) in one or more genes that normally control the growth and development of the blood cells. Exact reasons for the genetic changes are not known. Following are the possible factors for development of those cancers.
- Leukemia : Exposure to high levels of radiation and particular chemicals- benzene, pre-existing blood or genetic disorders.
- Lymphoma: Weakened immune system due to diseases or drugs, viral infections such as T-lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1).
- Myeloma: Exposure to high levels of radiation and ongoing exposure to certain industrial or environmental chemicals.
Q4. What are the common signs and symptoms in Lymphoma, Leukemia & Myeloma?
Leukemia : Anaemia, fever, bruising are common symptoms of leukemia. This occurs due to paucity of normal blood cells. Patients with acute leukemia are much sicker than those with chronic leukemia which generally doesn’t show troublesome symptoms.
Lymphoma : Painless swelling of the lymph nodes, usually under the neck, arms or in the groin. Recurrent fevers, excessive sweating at night, unintentional weight loss, lack of energy and generalised itching.
Myeloma : Most common presentation is bone pain. Other common symptoms include persistent tiredness and fatigue, anaemia , kidney failure or frequent infections.
Q5. What is the most important message to all?
Cancer is a disease in which time is of most essence. The stage in which the cancer is detected and the treatment begins is important. Early detection and timely treatment is key. People should not ignore their signs and symptoms and should consult a doctor immediately if some abnormalities persist for a longer time.