If you or one of your loved ones is affected by blood cancer, it is only natural to have several doubts in your mind regarding its treatment. Blood cancer is the most common cancer affecting children worldwide.
The different types of blood cancer are:
- Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia
- Acute myeloid leukaemia
- Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia
- Chronic myeloid leukaemia
- Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS)
The following factors determine a patient’s treatment regimen:
- The type and stage of blood cancer
- Blood reports.
- Systemic health
- Past history of cancer.
The different treatment modalities available for blood cancer are:
It is the most commonly used method to treat blood cancer. Chemotherapy kills the cancer cells which usually have a rapid growth rate. In the process of the cancer cells getting destroyed even healthy cells of the body will be affected, but they will repair themselves after the chemotherapy sessions. In some cases, chemotherapy is used to bring about long-term remission and in some others, it is used to suppress the immune system before a stem cell transplant.
A highly advanced modality of treatment for leukemia, immunotherapy is still getting heavily researched upon on its potential to treat cancer. Although, chemotherapy can bring cancer into remission stage but the chances of relapse are very high. When immunotherapy is carried out after chemotherapy, the patient’s innate immunity is boosted, so that the new immune cells can sustain the remission brought about by the previous cycles of chemotherapy. Immunotherapy is still in its nascent stage unlike chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
Bone Marrow Transplant
Stem cell transplant or bone marrow transplant is used for consolidation/ post-remission therapy. A stem cell transplant helps to replace the unhealthy bone marrow with healthy stem cells, which will in turn generate new and cancer-free bone marrow.
In order to destroy the cancerous bone marrow completely, BMT is often preceded by high dosages of chemotherapy or radiotherapy. This is followed by infusions of stem cells that belong to a compatible donor or the patient’s own cancer-free marrow.
Radiotherapy uses high- energy radiation to kill cancer cells that have accumulated in organs namely brain, spleen or spinal fluid. It destroys the DNA within the cancer cells and prevents their multiplication. The side-effects of radiotherapy are very similar to those of chemotherapy. A notable benefit of radiotherapy is that it can be used to bring pain relief to the area invaded by leukemia, if chemotherapy has failed to bring any.
The cycles of chemotherapy, radiotherapy etc takes a huge toll on the patient’s body. The risk of bleeding and infection will rise and hence supportive treatments will be required. Supportive treatments help to assist recovery and manage side-effects of chemo or radiotherapy.
The following types of supportive treatments are used:
- Antinausea and antiemetic medications
- Whole blood or blood component transfusions
- Antibiotics/immunoglobulins to prevent infections
Dr. Gaurav Dixit says, Despite the availability of numerous treatments for all types of blood cancer, the most important thing to remember is that if detected early, it becomes much easier to treat it.