Blood cancers occur when the body produces large number of immature blood cells that are unable to function properly, preventing normal functioning and blocking the bone marrow that prevents infections. The blood is made up of various cell types performing different functions.
Blood cancer, a much-dreaded disease, is viewed with a lot of apprehension due to a number of myths around its causes and treatment. Blood cancer is incurable, it happens due to anaemia, taking vitamins and supplements can prevent the disease, are some of the common myths around the disease.
Dr Girish VB, Senior Consultant- Hematology, Hemato Oncoloy, and Bone marrow transplant, Fortis Hospitals, Bannerghatta Road, busts 7 such myths regarding blood cancer.
Myth 1: Cancer treatment prevents you from living at home, working, or going about your daily routine.
Fact: The majority of cancer patients are treated in their communities as outpatients. Traveling to a specialized medical center for treatment may be beneficial on occasion, where doctors frequently collaborate with doctors in your hometown, allowing you to stay close to your family and friends. People may want to take time off work to focus on their health on some occasions. Many times, returning to work or continuing to work is possible.
Myth 2: Cancer is genetic and not much can be done about it
Fact: Untrue. Even with risk factors such as smoking present or a genetic variation, such as on the BRCA1 gene, there is no guarantee of developing cancer. As the saying goes, ‘Genes are bullets; the environment is the gun that fires them.’ With a healthy lifestyle, the genetic risks are significantly reduced.
Myth 3: Taking vitamins and supplements can help to reduce the risk
Fact: While this statement has been heavily promoted and marketed, there is no scientific evidence to it. In some cases, taking higher doses (of vitamins and supplements) might raise the risk. Rather than relying on artificial vitamins and health supplements, it is preferable to eat whole foods.
Myth 4: All patients with blood cancer require a bone marrow transplant.
Fact: Transplants are not required for all patients with blood cancer. The benefits of a bone marrow transplant are individually evaluated for each patient based on their underlying diagnosis, treatment response, and tumour’s genetic profile. Cutting-edge technology in genetic profiling combined with new targeted treatment has improved patients’ response to treatment in cases of acute leukemia, the majority of which do not require it in the frontline setting.
Myth 5: Anaemia causes blood cancer.
Fact: Anaemia can develop in patients with blood cancer, but isn’t the cause of it. Anaemia occurs when the body produces insufficient healthy red blood cells or hemoglobin as it depends on it for oxygen. In the case of RBC and oxygen shortage, fatigue causes interfere with the normal functioning of the body’s organs. Anaemia can be caused by a variety of medical conditions, iron deficiency being the most common cause.
Myth 6: The only type of blood cancer is leukemia.
Fact: Leukemia, Myeloma, and Lymphoma are the three types of blood cancers. The abnormal production of white blood cells in the bone marrow causes leukemia. It stays in the bloodstream and does not spread to other organs, so there are no stages to it.
Myeloma is a bone marrow cancer that can affect any part of the body, including the pelvis and spine, and can happen in multiple places at the same time.
Lymphoma affects the lymph glands and lymphatic system. Although the causes remain unknown, it is linked to HIV, EBV, genetic disorders, and environmental exposure to carcinogens.
Myth 7: Blood cancer is incurable.
Fact: In our long battle against cancer, every day brings something positive. Blood cancer treatment success rates are improving drastically, and patients are living longer than ever before. There are now various effective and targeted therapeutic agents that have been effective such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy, targeted therapy, bone marrow transplantation, and immunotherapy in beating cancer, thanks to countless labs engaged in cutting-edge research. There is a better chance of a complete cure with early diagnosis.