“Stem Cell Transplant offers long term cure for majority blood cancer patients”, says Dr. Naeem A Chaudhri, a Hematologist & Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplant Director at King Faisal Specialist Hospital & Research Centre, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Prevalence Of Blood-Related Diseases In South Asia
Cancer is the second leading cause of death worldwide. As per studies, 1 out of every 6 deaths all over the world is due to cancer. In the case of blood cancer, it is a highly under-addressed disease in South Asia.
Presently there is no clear unified data for blood-related disease prevalence, especially of cancer in South Asia. A huge number of cancer cases go undiagnosed or unreported. Thalassemia, of course, is one of the blood-related diseases which is more prevalent in Pakistan especially in the south of the country.
How Are Cancer Cells Formed?
A disturbance in the signalling pathways or maturation process of cells can lead to the formation of blood cancer cells from a stem cell.
What Causes Blood Cancer?
Exposure to certain chemicals or ionizing radiation can be the main cause of blood cancers. But in the majority of cases, no underlying cause is identified. Certain blood cancers can arise from an acquired genetic abnormality.
Are Some Blood-Related Cancers Hereditary?
There is no clear evidence that a blood cancer in a family member indicates that the other members of the same family are going to develop cancer. Certain underlying conditions like Down’s syndrome or patients with Franconia anaemia are at risk of developing blood cancers. Close monitoring and routine healthcare checkups in families with increased blood cancer cases can help in early detection and timely treatment.
What Are the Common Types of Blood Cancer?
The common blood/lymphoid cancers are lymphoma, myeloma, and acute leukaemia. Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia is the most common type of blood cancer in children whereas Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia is common among the elderly population.
Can Cancer Be Prevented?
Generally, a healthy lifestyle, avoiding cancer-causing foods and exposure to chemicals or ionizing radiation will help reduce the risk. But a common reason that plays a vital role in numerous solid cancers including blood cancers is smoking. We must take strict preventive measures to protect our youth from this easily available menace.
How Can The Disease Be Detected?
Routine health examination by primary care can help in early detection. The need for this should be emphasized through health education. If there are any signs of being unwell especially fatigue, bleeding, weight loss, or fever, an immediate medical evaluation should be sought. In some cases, especially in chronic leukaemia disease, undergoing appropriate treatment after early detection can have a better outcome.
What Are The Treatment Options?
Treatment options are based on the type of leukaemia, its aggressiveness, ability to respond, and other factors that help in making appropriate decisions. For example, acute leukaemia needs urgent treatment with chemotherapy, while some chronic leukaemia may not require any therapy for years. Similarly, some are identified as chronic blood cancers but affected individuals continue to take oral tablets for decades and remain without significant problems associated with the underlying disease. Among aggressive blood cancers, the treatment options may be chemotherapy or in some cases, the patients are offered to undergo Stem Cell transplants from patients’ stem cells or donors.
Who Is At Risk Of Blood Cancer?
There is enough evidence that people with a family history of blood cancer are at somewhat higher risk of developing blood cancer.
Can Cancer Patients Be Given Hope?
There is very effective treatment available for the large majority of blood cancers with a high cure rate. The cure rate with different kinds of blood cancers ranges from 40-80 percent complete and long-term cure. In some kind of blood cancers, the treatment is taken for decades like in any other chronic illness. In some childhood blood cancers, the cure rate is 70-90 percent, which is quite encouraging.
Are Chemo And Radiotherapy Painful?
They are not painful but can lead to pain and discomfort if complications develop. These complications are usually temporary and can be effectively treated to provide relief to the patient.
Side Effects Of Chemo And Radio Therapies?
All kinds of chemotherapies have different side effects. They may cause nausea, vomiting, hair loss or in some cases serious infections.
What Is Bone Marrow and What Is Its Function?
Bone Marrow is the area in the human body where the blood stem cells reside. It is the place where all blood constituents are made before they come into the bloodstream.
How Can Bone Marrow Transplant Help Cure Blood Cancer?
Bone Marrow Transplant is used as a curative treatment in various blood disorders including blood cancers that are considered high risk for recurrence or fail chemotherapy. It can be curative for a large number of patients, who are otherwise failing routine therapy. BMT is also carried out when a patient’s bone marrow fails because of immune-related dysfunction.
What is Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation?
Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation is a procedure where stem cells are collected from a patient after giving him chemotherapy through Autologous Stem Cell Transplant or in case of Allogeneic Stem Cell Transplant the collection is done from the donor without the use of chemotherapy. High dose chemotherapy alone or in combination with total body radiation is given to destroy the diseased marrow and replace it with healthy bone marrow collected from the donor. A transplant from related or unrelated donors is usually done for serious and high-risk acute leukaemia. A transplant can provide a long-term cure in the large majority of patients where otherwise the cure seems dismal.
How Are Stem Cells Collected For Transplant?
Hematopoietic Stem Cells can be collected in two ways from the patient for self-transplant or from a donor. They can be collected from the large pelvic bones by aspirating with needles under general anaesthesia or from large veins through a needle or a catheter after stimulation of the bone marrow.
In the End
Early diagnosis is helpful in treating any type of cancer. In fact, half of the cancers are preventable by timely diagnosis. In the case of blood cancers, a continuous diagnosis and regular health checkup are necessary. The chances of recovery from blood cancers especially leukaemia increases with the early diagnosis followed by treatment. Keep in mind that blood cancer is different from other types of cancer. Therefore, it is very important to keep a check on your signs and symptoms by consulting with the best oncologists at the Shifa International Hospital, Islamabad. Remember, nothing is more important than your health.