What is blood cancer?

What is blood cancer?


What is blood cancer? Blood flows through our vessels to supply all the body’s organs and tissues with nutrients. In the roughly five litres of blood circulating through our bodies there are billions of blood cells with different functions that are vital to life. There are three types of blood cells. The red blood cells, or erythrocytes, are the most numerous of the three. They carry oxygen to the body’s cells. The white blood cells, or
leukocytes, combat diseases. And the platelets, also called thrombocytes, help
the body to stop bleeding when injured. The blood cells are formed in the bone
marrow. The bone marrow is found in the cavities of bones. For example in the thigh bones or pelvic bone. One of the body’s key defense
mechanisms is the natural death of cells. Blood cells that are unusable or damaged
initiate pre-programmed cell death and in this way, protect the body from
diseases. This is why the body must produce many hundreds of billions of new blood cells every day. All blood cells originate from stem cells. Stem cells The stem cells are so-called mother cells that have not yet taken on a specialised function. They are able to renew themselves and to develop into
specialised cells. In this way, they can replace the body’s dead cells. The stem cells of the blood divide and develop in the bone marrow into progenitor cells. Through further cell division, these progenitor cells, then mature into different types of blood cells and enter the bloodstream. How blood cancer develops Defects can stop the normal process of maturation and natural cell death. This leads to the formation of immature or dysfunctional blood cells which enter the bloodstream and multiply uncontrollably. These dysfunctional cells
are called cancer cells. They can no longer carry out the normal cell functions and no longer die a natural cell death. The cancer cells flood the bloodstream and crowd out the healthy cells. This means that the blood can no longer fulfil its tasks. Depending on the level
of maturity of the blood cells in which the malignant changes take place, doctors distinguish between three main groups of blood cancer: leukaemia, multiple myeloma and malignant lymphoma. Malignant lymphoma is also known as cancer of the
lymph nodes. Cancer patients who suffer from diseases can be treated with a stem cell transplant from a healthy matching donor. The transplant of healthy stem
cells helps the patient’s bone marrow to regenerate and to start forming healthy
blood cells again. In summary, we can say that the term blood cancer is a general description for various malignant diseases of the blood-forming system. Stem cell transplantation is thus an important form of treatment for the affected patients.