According to the Qatar National Cancer Registry (QNCR) at the Ministry of Public Health, leukemia is the most common blood cancer and the third most common of all cancers diagnosed among men in Qatar. It is also the most common cancer diagnosed among children in the country. By 2020, more than one million new blood cancer cases are expected to be diagnosed globally.
Blood cancer is cancer of the blood, bone marrow, or lymph nodes and affects normal blood cell production or function. It can strike anyone, at any time. There is no way to prevent or screen for most blood cancers.
In recognition of Blood Cancer Awareness Month, clinicians at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) are working to increase awareness of leukemia and other types of blood cancer as well as the disease's signs and symptoms.
Dr. Halima El Omri, Senior Oncology Consultant and Head of the Hematology Section at the National Center for Cancer Care and Research (NCCCR), said blood cancer can be difficult to diagnosis as the signs and symptoms are easy to dismiss, particularly the early warning signs.
“With blood cancer, we are facing real diagnostic challenges as the symptoms of the different types vary, and each can have different risk factors. While some types of blood cancer elicit pronounced symptoms, such as loss of appetite or persistent fatigue, other symptoms can go unnoticed or be mistaken for something less severe. The same challenge applies to the risk factors as some of the most common, such as age, race, and gender, cannot be controlled or prevented.”
There are three main types of blood cancer, leukemia, multiple myeloma, and lymphomas. Leukemia is a cancer that originates in blood-forming tissue. It is found in the blood and bone marrow and is caused by the overproduction of abnormal white blood cells. Multiple myeloma is cancer that develops in the bone marrow and affects plasma cells. Lymphomas are diseases that affect the cells in the lymphatic system. There are dozens of lymphomas, but the disease is largely categorized as Hodgkin’s or non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
While no cancer is completely preventable, Dr. El Omri says healthy lifestyle choices can play a role in lowering one’s risk of developing some cancers.
“As cancer specialists, we urge the public to stay away from lifestyle behaviors that increase their risk of cancer, such as tobacco use, physical inactivity, and excess body weight. Medical screenings and regular checkups are highly recommended and do save lives,” said Dr. El Omri.
Dr. El Omri said cancer treatment can be complex. She says HMC’s blood cancer treatment options incorporate the latest research and technology.
“Through a multi-disciplinary team approach involving diagnostic radiology, radiotherapy, pathology, pharmacy, and surgery, hematology services at NCCCR provide blood cancer patients with the highest standards of medical care and the latest treatment technologies. The availability of stem cell transplantation for the treatment of malignant diseases of the blood and bone marrow means that patients are able to receive their treatment in Qatar without needing to travel abroad.”