Vials of blood

Blood Cancer: 10 Terms to Know

The three main types of blood cancer are leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma. These cancers can impair function of your bone marrow, lymphatic system, and blood cells. If you are interested in learning more about blood cancer for yourself or a loved one, here are ten terms you should know. 

  1. Bone marrow: A spongy tissue in the cavities of your bones, where blood cells are produced. Most blood cancers start in your bone marrow and disrupt the normal production of your blood cells. 
  2. Stem cells: The stem cells in your bone marrow develop into three types of blood cells: white blood cells, red blood cells, or platelets. Stem cell transplants are sometimes used to treat certain forms of blood cancer. 
  3. Platelets: Platelets are pieces of blood cells that stop bleeding by clumping together and forming a blood clot.  Your bone marrow produces platelets. Having too many or too few platelets can cause problems. 
  4. Plasma: Plasma cells are a type of white blood cell that make disease- and infection-fighting antibodies in your body. 
  5. Lymphoma: This type of blood cancer affects the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system produces immune cells and gets rid of excess fluid from your body. Lymphocytes are a type of white blood cell that are needed for fighting off an infection. When lymphocytes are abnormal they develop into lymphoma cells. These cells multiply and gather in your lymph nodes and other tissues, eventually impairing your immune system. 
  6. Lymph nodes: Lymph nodes are a part of your lymphatic system located throughout your body. Your lymph nodes are responsible for filtering lymph fluid as it runs through them, catching harmful bacteria, viruses and other foreign substances that are then destroyed by lymphocytes. 
  7. Leukemia: This is a common type of blood cancer that is found in your blood and bone marrow. It is caused by the increased production of abnormal white blood cells. The high amount of these cells prevent the body from fighting off infection and affect your bone marrow’s production of red blood cells and platelets. 
  8. Myeloma: Another main type of blood cancer, myeloma is a cancer of your plasma cells. The normal production of antibodies is prevented by myeloma cells. This causes your body’s immune system to weaken and be vulnerable to infection. 
  9. Immune system: Your immune system protects you against disease. When functioning normally, your immune system can recognize and attack infections, viruses, and foreign substances. When you have blood cancer, however, your immune system is weakened and you are vulnerable to infection. 
  10. Complete blood count (CBC): A CBC is a blood test that can determine your general health and identify different disorders such as anemia, infection, and blood cancer. The test measures components and features of your blood, including red and white blood cells and platelets. A CBC is an essential test that is used for diagnosing blood cancer. 
Last Updated: May 26, 2016