I always thought leukemia was a childhood cancer, until I was diagnosed at 55. Why isn’t there more awareness of leukemia in adults?
Blood cancers like leukemia, lymphoma and multiple myeloma are far more common in adults than in children. Leukemia is the most common type of cancer in children—which is possibly why childhood cancer and leukemia seem synonymous to many. The fact is that most blood cancers occur in adults over age 50.
Facing a cancer diagnosis can be daunting. That's why HCA Midwest Health offers a variety of services to help you along the way—from information to help you understand your diagnosis, to a specialized team of blood cancer experts to guide you through treatment. By partnering with the Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute, HCA Midwest Health provides compassionate care and support to you and your loved ones during a difficult time.
The HCA Midwest Health Blood Cancer Center offers comprehensive outpatient services and a dedicated inpatient oncology unit staffed by Oncology Certified nurses. As part of the part of the Sarah Cannon Blood Cancer Network, patients have access to leading edge cancer treatments without having to leave the comfort and support of their home community. This includes participation in clinical trials for blood cancer.
Understanding blood cancers
Blood cancers affect the blood or bone marrow (which creates blood cells). There are four main categories of blood cancer and each have subtypes.
There are four different types of leukemia, named for the type of white blood cells that are involved (lymphocytic or myelogenous) and whether the cancer is fast-growing (acute) or slow growing (chronic):
- Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL)
- Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML)
- Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL)
- Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML)
Lymphoma also starts in a type of white blood cell – called lymphocytes. But while leukemia primarily affects the blood and bone marrow, lymphomas affect the lymph nodes and surrounding tissue. There are two main types of lymphoma:
- Hodgkin Lymphoma involves a specific type of abnormal cell called a Reed-Sternberg cell. It is more common at younger ages than Non-Hodgkin but significantly less common overall. There are 5 additional subtypes.
- Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma does not involve a Reed-Sternberg cell. There are more than 60 different subtypes.
Myeloma begins in plasma cells, the type of white blood cells that produce antibodies. Plasma cells collect in the bone marrow. When plasma cells become cancerous and grow out of control, the disease is called plasmacytoma, a single (solitary) tumor. If someone has more than one plasmacytoma, it's called multiple myeloma. Myeloma is rare, making up an estimated 1.8 percent of all new cancer cases in 2016. About 90 percent of myeloma cases are multiple myelomas at the time of diagnosis.
Sometimes abbreviated as MDS, myelodysplastic syndromes are cancers that affect the blood-forming cells in bone marrow. About a third of MDS cases progress to acute myeloid leukemia (AML) which is why it used to be called pre-leukemia or smoldering leukemia. But as scientists learned more about MDS it has been classified as a separate condition and form of cancer. There are seven subtypes of MDS.
Here's a look at how common blood cancer is in the U.S. and the Kansas City area.
|Type of Blood Cancer||Living with or in remission*||New cases in Missouri/Kansas, 2016*|
|Myelodysplastic Syndromes||13,000 (diagnosed)||not available|
Treatment & support
No matter the type of blood cancer, treatment will include a variety of medical specialties, including oncology (cancer specialist), hematologist (blood specialist) and radiation oncology (radiation therapy). Treatments vary significantly by the type and stage of cancer.
When you are fighting cancer, your immune system is usually weakened by the very treatment working to get you in remission. That means any illness or injury that brings you into an emergency room takes on additional significance. The Oncology Alert Patient Care Program provides special training to the staff at area emergency rooms and clinics to address the unique needs of patients in cancer treatment. Offered by Sarah Cannon HCA Midwest Health, it's the only program of its kind in the Kansas City region.
For answers at any point in your cancer journey, patients and loved ones can call the askSarah help line (816) 448-7737. This free service of HCA Midwest Health and the Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute lets you talk to an oncology-trained nurse 24 hours of day, 7 days a week.