Leukemia & Lymphona: What are blood cancers? | Norton Cancer Institute

Leukemia & Lymphona: What are blood cancers? | Norton Cancer Institute


Well I think it’s important in
discussing blood cancers to understand your blood system as an organ. It is sometimes much easier to
think of the colon as an organ or the lungs as an organ but your blood
is also an organ and in many ways it’s one of the most complicated ones in your
body. What makes it complicated is that it’s
constantly being replaced. All your blood cells that circulate, that
are responsible for carrying oxygen, for making sure that your blood clots
appropriately and by appropriately I mean not too little so that you bleed or not too
much that you clot when you shouldn’t and all the cells that
are responsible for your immune system are all part of your blood organ. And all of those cells only live so long in
your circulation. Red corpuscles for example, only live
about 100 days. Platelets which are tiny cells that help
your blood to clot, only live about 10 days and some white blood cells only live
about eight hours in your circulation. So your bone marrow and your blood
system constantly have to be replenished and when it comes to blood cancers, that
makes it very complicated because you have many different types of cells that can go from good to bad, from benign to malignant and not only do you have all these
mature cells that can transform from good to bad but as they are
maturing they can turn bad at any point in that
maturation process and that sounds complicated but it’s not
really. If you imagine, for example, that each of these growing, maturing cells are children in
school, that means that they could go bad when
they’re very immature like turning bad when they’re in kindergarten or they could go bad when they’re in
middle school or they could go bad when they’re more mature say in high school. So you have multiple types of cells that
are always undergoing maturation and that at any point in that maturation
any one of those cell lines can develop that switch from benign to malignant and that’s what makes a
blood cancer.