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Hematological Malignancies: Symptoms & Treatment

Instructor: Dan Washmuth

Dan has taught college Nutrition, Anatomy, Physiology, and Sports Nutrition courses and has a master's degree in Dietetics & Nutrition.

Hematological malignancies are a group of cancers that include leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma. Continue reading to learn all about the symptoms and treatments for these types of cancers.

Surprise Diagnosis

Dave is a 63-year-old retired police officer who has recently started to feel pretty sick. Over the past few weeks, Dave has been suffering from constant weakness and fatigue, chest pains, and fever. Additionally, Dave has noticed that he has lost over 15 pounds since last month.

Dave thought that he might have gotten the flu, so he decided to go to the hospital to get some treatment to make him feel better. While at the hospital, doctors took Dave through several tests to see what was causing his recent symptoms. Much to the shock of Dave, doctors informed him that he had lymphoma, a type of cancer of his lymphatic system.

Hematological malignancies refer to cancers of the blood and lymph system. There are three main types of hematological malignancies, which include:

  • Leukemia: a cancer of the blood forming cells of the body
  • Lymphoma: a cancer of the lymphatic system (a collection of lymph nodes and vessels that have a major role in the body's immune system)
  • Myeloma: a cancer of plasma cells that inhibit the body's ability to produce antibodies (proteins that protect the body against infection and disease)

Symptoms

The symptoms of each of these three types of hematological malignancies are fairly similar. The following chart describes the specific symptoms of leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma.

Type of Cancer Symptoms
Leukemia Fever, flu-like symptoms, weakness, tiredness, headaches, pain in the bones, weight loss, palor, and rashes on the skin.
Lymphoma Fever, chest pain, shortness of breath, rashes, weight loss, fatigue, weakness, swollen and inflamed lymph nodes (especially those located under the arms, sides of neck, and groin area).
Myeloma Low-levels of red blood cells, high levels of calcium in the blood, kidney damage, weight loss, bone problems, frequent infections.

One of the symptoms that is common to all hematological malignancies is weight loss.
weight loss

Treatment

The treatments for these types of hematological malignancies are very similar as well, and include:

  • Chemotherapy: Involves the use of medicine or drugs (chemical agents) to destroy cancer cells in the body.
  • Stem-cell transplant: Stem-cells are located in the bone marrow and are involved in creating normal blood cells. Hematological malignancies can impair the body's ability to create normal stem-cells. Stem-cell transplants involves inserting/transplanting normal stem-cells into the body so they can create normal, healthy blood cells.
  • Radiation therapy: Involves the use of high-energy radiation (x-rays, gamma rays) to kill cancer cells in the body.

Radiation therapy involves using high-energy radiation, such as gamma rays, to kill cancerous cells.
radiation therapy

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