To help you get a better understanding of what blood cancer is, the symptoms to look out for and the treatments available, we’ve produced an informative overview answering your frequently asked questions.

Blood cancer facts

Did you know?

  • Blood cancer is the 5th most common type of cancer in the UK
  • There are over 100 types of cancers of the blood, many of which are extremely rare
  • Over 240,000 patients are living with blood cancer in the UK
  • Over 40,000 new cases are diagnosed each year
  • The 3 main types of blood cancer are leukaemia, myeloma and lymphoma
  • Our blood is made up of 3 different types of cells;

red blood cells which carry the oxygen around the body

white blood cells which fight and stop infections

platelets which help the blood to clot and stop or prevent bleeding.

What causes blood cancer?

Blood cancers develop from the mutations of different types of white blood cells found in our blood, bone marrow and lymphatic system (a network of tissues and organs that help rid the body of toxins).

When a problem develops with white blood cells, blood cancers can occur. The white blood cells will stop working properly and can multiply stopping the normal function of blood, such as fighting infection, stopping bleeding or healing wounds.

Is blood cancer hereditary?

As we age, genetic mutations in the DNA of white blood cells become more common, which is why blood cancers affect older people more than younger people.

It is very rare for the mutation responsible for a blood cancer to be passed through the family. Unlike many other cancers, lifestyle habits such as diet, exercise, weight and smoking have little impact on the development of blood cancer.

What are the symptoms of blood cancer?

Symptoms of blood cancer can vary according to the type of cancer. However, the most common symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Fevers and sweats
  • Easy bruising or bleeding
  • Bone pain
  • Frequent infections
  • Weight loss
  • Swollen lymph glands in the neck, armpit or groin
  • Itchy skin

How is it diagnosed?

Blood cancer is usually diagnosed with a combination of blood tests and biopsies of the bone marrow and lymph glands. Early signs of some blood cancers can be picked-up incidentally when blood tests are done for other reasons.

Types of treatment

Blood cancer treatments vary depending on the type of cancer diagnosed. The most common treatments include chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted molecular therapies, and stem cell transplants.