The Often Confusing World of “Blood Cancers”
The term blood cancers refers to any cancer that started growing in cells that came from the bloodforming cells inside the bone marrow; they include multiple types of Lymphoma and Leukemia, as well as Multiple Myeloma. Additionally, there are several blood cell abnormalities, such as Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS), which are included in this group. These diagnoses have a fairly complex evolution, so understanding what is happening can be more difficult than with solid tumor cancers, such as breast or lung. Marian Cancer Center offers a variety of programs to support patients during this unique journey.
Each blood cancer starts in a different area of our blood creating pathway. So, medical monitoring may address red cell, white cell, platelet or plasma cell counts and function. Although each patient’s journey is unique, there are many shared experiences and challenges within this group of patients. Research in this area of cancer care is delivering a steady stream of new treatment options that did not exist even 5 to 10 years ago. Mission Hope’s strong connection with nationwide research programs ensures these doors are open to patients that need them.
The majority of patients diagnosed with blood cancers are older adults (55+); however, there are plenty of young adults facing the same/similar challenges. Last year blood cancers accounted for 9.4% of the estimated 1,665,540 new cancer cases diagnosed in the U.S. in 20141. Although all have a link with cells within the bone marrow, the type of cell that is affected and the specific genetic markers associated with any group of blood cancers are varied. Like many solid tumor cancers, blood cancer patients are likely to have several different types of treatments involved in their care, including surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, biologic/gene specific therapy, etc. Patients also need to find ways to optimize their health; the many supportive programs, including exercise therapy, nutritional therapy, caregiver support, and psychological support offered through our Cancer Center, empower patients to make their journey with the best possible outcome.
Since 2002, Marian Cancer Center has been partnered with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) to sponsor a support group for adults and their families who are facing a blood cancer. This group is facilitated by a nurse and/or social worker familiar with the challenging aspects (physical, psychological, emotional, and financial) of blood cancers. We help ensure that questions, frustrations, milestones or concerns are dealt with in a safe, confidential setting. The LLS also offers a number of resources including free patient/family educational opportunities and, at times, financial assistance. A favorite is their First Connection Program which matches a requesting patient with a trained volunteer survivor whose diagnosis was very similar. Several of our patients have become First Connection Volunteers at their own request.
The discussions at support group meetings vary, focusing on the individual cancer experience of attendees. The greatest need may be at first diagnosis when the situation feels overwhelming; it could be when the plan of care changes, or when the patient is finished with treatment and working to find a “new normal.” Participants have the opportunity to ask questions of knowledgeable professionals and experienced patients. Although we deal with serious information and issues, laughter is often a key component. You are welcome to join us to learn about the resources that have helped many in coping successfully with blood cancer.
For patients and families dealing with blood cancers… Lymphoma, Leukemia and Multiple Myelom a Support Group
Meets the third Thursday of each month • 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. Misison Hope Cancer Center Conference Room
1325 East Church Street, Santa Maria
Please join us to find help and answers at our monthly meetings. The facilitator of this group is a retired oncology nurse and a 19 year survivor of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.