A hematological malignancy is a type of cancer that affects the bone marrow or the blood. There are three types of cancer that can affect these systems: leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma. These diseases have a wide range of severity, and treatment often depends on the health of the patient and the type and aggressiveness of the cancer. Both children and adults are at risk for hematological malignancies, which can occur without warning or can develop slowly, over the course of many years. In many cases, the treatment of a hematological malignancy can lead to complete recovery.
The plasma cells within the bone marrow can develop a hematological malignancy. This type of cancer is known as multiple myeloma, and it affects the body’s ability to create new red blood cells, leading to anemia. The elderly are at greatest risk for developing this disease. Symptoms include low blood count and bleeding problems. Transplant, radiation, anti-cancer medications, and watchful waiting are all treatments for multiple myeloma. If the disease is caught early enough, the patient may recover though multiply myeloma may recur after a period of remission.
Lymphoma is also a hematological malignancy. These types of cancer are found within the immune system and can involve the white blood cells as well as the lymph nodes. In patients with lymphoma, certain types of white blood cells begin to divide uncontrollably, often consolidating into a mass, or tumor, in one of the lymph nodes or other organs of the immune system. This type of hematological malignancy is the most common one seen in adults and one of the ten most common types of cancer. Both adults and children who are diagnosed with lymphoma have a good chance of surviving the cancer and returning to normal health.
The third type of hematological malignancy is known as leukemia. In people with this disease, the bone marrow creates white blood cells that do not die when they are supposed to. These cells crowd out normal cells and interfere with the normal production of blood cells in the bone marrow. Treatment for this type of hematological malignancy depends on the severity and type of leukemia, and in general, children diagnosed with the disease have a greater chance of surviving than adults do.