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Blood Cancer Treatment

Blood cancer treatment involves various approaches depending on the type of blood cancer, the patient’s health, and their personal preferences. The primary goals of treatment are to cure the cancer, achieve partial remission, or manage symptoms and quality of life.

Blood cancer tests

Blood cancer tests are used to diagnose and monitor blood cancers such as leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma. These tests can help identify the specific type of blood cancer and determine the best course of treatment. Here are some common blood cancer tests:

1: Full Blood Count (FBC)

  • Calculates the quantity of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets in the blood.
  • Aids in the diagnosis of diseases of the blood, infections, and anaemia.

2: Liver Function Tests (LFTs)

  • Assesses the liver’s overall health.
  • Helps diagnose liver damage or disease.

3: Urea and Electrolytes

  • Tests kidney function by measuring the levels of urea and electrolytes in the blood.
  • Helps diagnose kidney damage or disease.

4: Immunophenotyping

  • Examines the proteins on the surface of cells to identify abnormal blood cells.
  • Helps diagnose blood cancers and determine the best treatment options.

5: Genetic Tests

  • Analyzes the genes in cancer cells to identify specific changes that cause blood cancer.
  • Helps predict treatment outcomes and prognosis.

6: X-rays

  • Uses small doses of radiation to take images of the body, especially the bones.
  • Helps diagnose bone damage or disease.

7: Ultrasound Scans

  • Enables the creation of images of internal body structures using high-frequency sound waves.
  • Helps diagnose conditions like liver or kidney damage.

8: Complete Blood Count (CBC)

  • Measures the number of blood cells, including red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.
  • Aids in the diagnosis of diseases of the blood, infections, and anemia.

9: Tumor Markers

  • Measures the levels of specific proteins in the blood, urine, or stool.
  • Helps diagnose and monitor certain types of cancer, such as breast, ovarian, and prostate cancer.

These tests are used in combination with other diagnostic methods, such as imaging and biopsies, to provide a comprehensive diagnosis and treatment plan for blood cancer patients.

Blood cancer therapies

Blood cancer therapies involve a range of treatments tailored to the specific type and stage of the disease. The following are a few typical treatments for blood cancers:

1: Chemotherapy

This involves using powerful drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy can be given sublingually or by intravenous injection. It is often used in combination with other therapies, such as targeted therapy or stem cell transplantation, to restore healthy blood cells.

2: Immunotherapy

This approach harnesses the body’s immune system to fight blood cancer. Immunotherapies include monoclonal antibodies, CAR T-cell therapy, and other forms of targeted therapy. These treatments can help boost the immune system’s response to cancer cells.

3: Radiotherapy

High doses of radiation are directed at the part of the body where the cancer is located to destroy cancer cells. This can be applied either on its own or in conjunction with other therapies.

4: Stem Cell (Bone Marrow) Transplantation

This involves replacing damaged blood-forming stem cells with healthy ones. This may aid in the body’s ability to generate healthy red blood cells being restored.

5: Targeted Therapy

This type of therapy targets specific molecules that help cancer cells grow and spread. Examples include tyrosine kinase inhibitors, monoclonal antibodies, proteosome inhibitors, histone deacetylase inhibitors, FLT3 inhibitors, and cancer vaccines.

6: Intrathecal Chemotherapy

This involves injecting chemotherapy drugs directly into the cerebrospinal fluid to reach cancer cells in the central nervous system.

7: CAR-T Therapy

This is a new type of immunotherapy that uses genetically modified T-cells to target and kill cancer cells. In certain cases where other treatments have failed, it has demonstrated encouraging results.

8: Supportive Care

This includes various services to manage symptoms, side effects, and quality of life during treatment. These services include behavioral medicine, nutrition planning, pain management, palliative care, social support, and transfusion therapy.

9: Clinical Trials

Many blood cancer treatments are being researched and developed through clinical trials. These trials offer patients access to cutting-edge treatments and the opportunity to contribute to the advancement of blood cancer care.

Planning and Choosing Treatment

  • Personalized Treatment Plans: Based on the type of blood cancer, its stage, the patient’s overall health, and symptoms.
  • Understanding Treatment Options: Patients are informed about the goals, side effects, benefits, and risks of each treatment option.
  • Clinical Trials: Access to cutting-edge research studies for new treatments, diagnosis methods, and prevention strategies.

Support and Palliative Care

  • Behavioral Medicine: Psychologists and psychiatrists help patients cope with the challenges of blood cancer.
  • Nutrition and Pain Management: Experts design diet plans and manage pain to support patients during treatment.
  • Social Support: Social workers assist with practical aspects of living with blood cancer.
  • Palliative Care: Focuses on improving the quality of life for patients whose cancer is no longer responding to treatment.

Blood Cancer Research and Clinical Trials

  • UPMC Hillman Cancer Center: Offers over 500 clinical trials, providing access to innovative treatments and research.
  • Blood Cancer Research: Includes studies on new treatments, diagnosis methods, and prevention strategies.

Blood Cancer Prognosis and Survival Rates

Five-Year Relative Survival Rate: According to the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program, the five-year relative survival rate for blood cancer is approximately 66.7%.

Blood Cancer Treatment Centers

UPMC Hillman Cancer Center: Offers comprehensive blood cancer care, including clinical trials and support services, at its location in Pittsburgh’s Shadyside neighborhood.

These resources provide detailed information on blood cancer treatment options, planning, and support services, as well as the latest research and clinical trials.


1: Does cancer show up in normal routine blood work?

Cancer can sometimes show up in routine blood work, but it is not a reliable method for detecting most types of cancer.

  • Routine Blood Tests: Routine blood tests, such as a complete blood count (CBC), can detect certain types of cancer, like leukemia, but they are not effective for detecting most cancers.
  • Abnormal Results: While a normal result does not always rule out cancer, an abnormal result on a routine blood test may indicate the disease.
  • Specific Blood Tests: Certain blood tests, like the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test, are designed to detect specific types of cancer, such as prostate cancer. These tests can be useful in conjunction with other diagnostic tests.

Limitations: Blood tests are not a standalone method for diagnosing cancer. They are often used in combination with other tests, such as physical examinations, imaging tests, and biopsies, to confirm or rule out a diagnosis.

Future Developments: Advances in blood testing technology, such as liquid biopsies, may improve the ability to detect cancer through blood tests in the future.

In summary, while blood tests can be useful in detecting certain types of cancer, they are not a reliable method for detecting most cancers. A comprehensive diagnostic approach involving multiple tests and procedures is typically necessary for an accurate diagnosis.

2: Can blood test detect colon cancer?

Yes, blood tests can help detect colon cancer, but they are not definitive on their own and are usually used in combination with other diagnostic methods like colonoscopies and stool tests.

Some main points about blood tests for colon cancer:

  • A complete blood count (CBC) can reveal anemia or abnormal blood cell counts, which may indicate colon cancer, but many other conditions can also cause these.
  • The Epi proColon (mSEPT9) test looks for an altered gene called methylated septin 9 in the blood, which may be elevated in colon cancer, but it is not as widely used as other tests.
  • Tests for circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA) find tiny bits of DNA that tumours release into the bloodstream.
  • These tests can help guide treatment but are not sensitive enough yet for screening.
  • A new blood test developed by Guardant Health was 83% effective at detecting colorectal cancer in a clinical trial. By recognising ctDNA in the blood, it functions. However, a positive result would still require a colonoscopy for confirmation.
  • Carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) tests measure a protein produced by colon cancer cells. While useful for monitoring known cancer, CEA levels alone cannot diagnose new cancer.

In summary, while blood tests are a promising new tool, colonoscopies remain the gold standard for detecting and preventing colorectal cancer by finding precancerous polyps. Blood tests may be most useful for those unwilling or unable to undergo colonoscopy screening.

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