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Treatment options of blood cancer

Dr. Shinto Francis Thekkudan, MD, DM, Fellowship in Bone Marrow Transplantation (RGCI, Delhi) IACA Fellowship in Stem Cell Transplantation (MD Anderson Cancer Centre, Houston, USA) ASH VTP Scholarship in SCT (University Hospital Seidman Cancer Centre, Cleveland, USA) Consultant & Chief, Dept. of Clinical Haemotology, Haemato Oncology & BMT Baby Memorial Hospital, Calicut, Kerala - 673004

Published: Aug 3, 2023 10:54:00 AM IST
Updated: Aug 3, 2023 11:01:10 AM IST

Treatment options of blood cancerBlood cancer, also known as hematologic cancer or hematological malignancy, is a type of cancer that affects the production and function of blood cells. It includes a variety of different cancers, such as leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma, among others. Treatment options for blood cancer vary depending on the type and stage of the cancer, as well as the individual patient's health and preferences. In this article, we will discuss the various treatment options for blood cancer.

1. Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is a treatment that uses drugs to kill cancer cells. It is commonly used in the treatment of blood cancer. Chemotherapy drugs are typically administered intravenously or orally, and they circulate throughout the body to attack cancer cells. Some common chemotherapy drugs used in the treatment of blood cancer include methotrexate, cyclophosphamide, and vincristine.

Chemotherapy is often given in cycles, with a period of treatment followed by a period of rest to allow the body to recover. The duration and number of cycles of chemotherapy depend on the type and stage of the cancer. Chemotherapy can have side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, hair loss, and increased risk of infection.

2. Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy uses high-energy radiation, such as X-rays or gamma rays, to kill cancer cells. It is a local treatment, meaning that it targets a specific area of the body where the cancer is located. Radiation therapy is often used in combination with chemotherapy to treat blood cancer.

Radiation therapy can be administered externally or internally. External radiation therapy uses a machine outside the body to deliver the radiation, while internal radiation therapy involves placing a radioactive source inside the body, close to the cancer. Side effects of radiation therapy can include skin changes, fatigue, and an increased risk of infection.

3. Stem cell transplantation

Stem cell transplantation, also known as bone marrow transplantation, is a procedure that replaces damaged or destroyed stem cells in the bone marrow with healthy stem cells. Stem cells are the immature cells that develop into red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. In stem cell transplantation, healthy stem cells are transplanted into the patient's body, where they can begin to produce new blood cells.

Stem cell transplantation can be used to treat certain types of blood cancer, such as leukemia and lymphoma. There are two types of stem cell transplantation: autologous and allogeneic.

Autologous stem cell transplantation uses the patient's own stem cells, which are collected and stored before chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Allogeneic stem cell transplantation uses stem cells from a donor, typically a sibling or unrelated donor, whose tissue type closely matches the patient's tissue type.

Stem cell transplantation is a complex procedure that carries significant risks, including infection, graft-versus-host disease, and organ damage. Patients undergoing stem cell transplantation require close monitoring and care.

4. Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses the body's immune system to fight cancer cells. It works by either stimulating the immune system to attack cancer cells or by blocking signals that cancer cells use to evade the immune system. Immunotherapy can be used to treat certain types of blood cancer, such as lymphoma and multiple myeloma.

There are several types of immunotherapy, including monoclonal antibodies, checkpoint inhibitors, and CAR-T cell therapy. Monoclonal antibodies are laboratory-produced molecules that target specific proteins on the surface of cancer cells. Checkpoint inhibitors block proteins that prevent the immune system from attacking cancer cells. CAR-T cell therapy involves genetically modifying a patient's own T cells to recognize and attack cancer cells.

Immunotherapy is designed to strengthen your immune system to fight cancer more effectively. Although it’s an effective treatment for multiple types of cancer, it can cause side effects. Most side effects, like rashes and fatigue, are mild. Others require prompt medical care.

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