Hematological Malignancies: Definition, Classifications & Statistics

Instructor: Candice Jones

Candice has been a registered nurse for 11 years with current experience in college-level instruction and has a MSN in Nursing Education.

Hematological malignancies is a fancy term for blood cancers. In this lesson we will define, classify, and discuss the statistics regarding hematological malignancies.

What are Hematological Malignancies?

Think of blood cells as superheroes. They help the body fight off diseases from bacteria, viruses, and other antigens that are trying to harm it. Red blood cells carry oxygen to the body, white blood cells offer immune protection, and platelets help with clotting. All of these processes are grossly disrupted by hematological malignancies, or blood cancers.

Recall that stem cells from the bone marrow become blood cells. They then become progenitor cells, which then become either myeloid progenitor cells or lymphoid progenitor cells.

  • Myeloid cells are precursors for red blood cells, white blood cells (i.e. granulocytes), and platelets.
  • Lymphoid cells are precursors for white blood cells (i.e. T and B lymphocytes).

Hematological malignancies affect not only the stem and blood cells, but also lymph nodes and other components of the lymphatic system.

Essentially, the stem cells are malignant, which make the progenitor cells malignant as well. The causes are highly genetic. Cancer risk assessments and genetic counseling can be provided to those who have a familial predisposition, in addition to preventative measures and long-term followup.

Classifications

So, a progenitor cell either becomes a myeloid or lymphoid progenitor cell. The various types of hematological malignancies can be grouped according to which pathway they travel. Myeloid, or myelogenous hematological malignancies typically affect the elderly and include:

  • Acute myelogenous leukemia - quickly progressing and rare blood cancer that produces too many white blood cells.
  • Chronic myelogenous leukemia - slowly progressing and rare blood cancer that produces too many white blood cells.
  • Myelodysplastic syndromes - rare bone marrow cancers that inhibits the production of mature blood cells (i.e. red, some white, and platelets).
  • Myelodysplastic neoplasms - rare bone marrow diseases that produces too many blood cells (i.e. red, some white, and platelets).

Lymphoid, or lymphoblastic hematological malignancies affect children and adults and include:

  • Acute lymphoblastic leukemia - quickly progressing cancer that produces too many T and B lymphocytes; the most common childhood leukemia.
  • Chronic lymphyocytic leukemia - the most common adulthood leukemia.
  • Lymphomas (Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin) - cancer of the lymphatic system affecting T and B lymphocytes. Includes Hodgkin lymphoma (one of the most curable forms of cancer) and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
  • Multiple myelomas - rare cancer of plasma that causes cancer cells to crowd out healthy blood cells in the bone marrow.

Consequences of these disrupting cancers include less oxygen to body tissues, decreased function of the immune system, removing excess fluid from the body via lymph, and decreased ability of the blood to clot.

No matter which type of blood cancer a patient has, the effects are similar and can include bone pain, weight loss, fatigue, night sweats, fevers, bruising easily, infections, and pruritus (itchy skin).

Statistics

How much of an impact do hematological malignancies have on individuals, society, and the healthcare system? The emotional and life-changing consequences can be detrimental to individuals and families, especially in the case of children.

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