Blood Cancers

Cancer of the Blood

There are 3 main types of cancers of the blood, they are lymphoma, leukaemia and myeloma. The 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

The course of treatment given will depend on the type of cancer. The most common treatments are chemotherapy, radiotherapy and in some instances a stem cell transplant.


This is a cancer that affects part of your immune system known as the lymphatic system. It can develop in any part of your body, most commonly bone marrow, lymph nodes, blood. It is caused by the lymphocytes (white cells that normally fight infection) not dying when they should or not dividing normally.

There are 2 main types of lymphoma:

Non Hodgkin lymphoma

This is the most common type of lymphoma. Around 12,000 people are diagnosed each year in the UK with this type of lymphoma and 60% of those are over the age of 65.

Hodgkin lymphoma

This is less common with around 1,700 people in the UK being diagnosed each year, it is more common in young and older adults.


Leukaemia is the kind of cancer that affects the white blood cells and originates in the bone marrow. It makes the body produce too many immature white blood cells which then stop the body from producing the other types of cells, including platelets and red blood cells which are essential for the immune and blood system. The leukaemia can either be chronic (slow developing) or acute (fast-developing). There are 4 main types of leukaemia:

Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL)

More common in people less that 40 and older that 65 years of age.

Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL)

This is the most common type of leukaemia and mainly affects people over 60 years old.

Acute myeloid leukaemia (AML)

More common in adults over 60 but can affect people of all ages.

Chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML)

More common in middle age and older people but can affect people at any age.


Myeloma is a blood cancer disease in which one type of white cells, the plasma cells, start uncontrollable multiplication in the bone marrow. This then interferes with the production of red blood cells, causing anaemia and damages the bone, causing bone thinning and sometimes breaks.

In the UK about 4,900 people a year are diagnosed with Myeloma. It is very rare in the under 40’s.

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