The sponge-like substance found within the bones of the human body is called marrow. This bone marrow is composed of stem cells that are used by the body to produce platelets, white blood cells, and red blood cells.
Cancer of the bone marrow develops when there is an abnormal rate of growth or development for the said stem cells. This form of cancer is different from bone cancer and is usually called blood cancer or cancer of the bone marrow.
Other forms or classifications of cancer may also spread to an individual’s bone marrow and the bone structure itself but experts do not usually identify this bone marrow cancer per se.
The Different Types of Bone Marrow Cancer
There a number of different types of bone marrow cancer. Listed below are some forms of bone marrow cancer:
Multiple Myeloma is the most common form of bone marrow cancer and usually starts its development in the cells of the plasma. Plasma cells are responsible for the production of antibodies that help the body fight off against foreign microorganisms that may cause infection and illnesses through the white blood cells. Cancerous tumors form when these plasma cells start to reproduce or multiply at an abnormally rapid rate which may lead to a compromised immune system and loss of bone mass, both of which contribute to decreased resistance against infections.
This type of bone marrow cancer also has white blood cells as one of its major components. Leukemia happens when the body starts the production of blood cells that are abnormal. As the body builds up these abnormal blood cells which don’t easily die off, they start to overpower and swamp the other normal blood cells such as platelets, red blood cells, and white blood cells making them unable to function normally.
There a number of different types of leukemia affecting different groups of people usually classified as to whether leukemia for adults or kids. Leukemia that usually affects just adults is chronic lymphocytic leukemia and chronic myelogenous leukemia. On the other hand, leukemia that affects both adults and children include acute myelogenous leukemia and acute lymphatic leukemia.
This kind of bone marrow cancer can start in either the bone marrow itself or as the name implies, the lymph nodes. There two (2) main types of lymphoma and these are non-Hodgkins lymphomas and Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Non-Hodgkins lymphoma usually develops in the body’s T or B cells while Hodgkin’s lymphoma is usually initiated just initiates in the body’s B cells. Tumors that develop for lymphoma are usually from lymphocytes that abnormally develop and grow making it more difficult for the body’s immune response system to efficiently work and accomplish its job of protecting the body.
What are the Symptoms of Cancer of the Bone Marrow?
The different types of bone marrow cancer can have different symptoms as well. For multiple myeloma, these symptoms may be nerve damage resulting in:
- numbness or in tingling sensation in the extremities
- kidney failure or damage
- bone weakness or pain
- hypercalcemia or the increased levels of calcium resulting in confusion
- the feeling of drowsiness
- loss of appetite
- the frequent need to urinate
- the feeling of always being thirsty
- leukopenia resulting in more frequent infections
- thrombocytopenia or bruising and bleeding caused by decreased levels of platelets
- anemia or the reduced levels of red blood cells resulting in feeling fatigued
Leukemia will usually present itself with different sets of symptoms such as pain in the bones of the individuals, night sweats, petechiae or the appearance on the skin of small red dots, frequent bleeding of the nose and bruising, a spleen or liver that is enlarged, lymph nodes that are swollen, unintentional weight loss, infections that are severe or frequent, feelings of being fatigued or weakened, and chills or fever.
Bone marrow cancer that is classified as lymphoma will usually have symptoms that include itching or rashes, lower back and chest pain, reduced energy, chills and fever, night sweats, unintentional weight loss, the stomach feeling bloated or full, tingling or numbness brought about by nerve damage, lymph nodes that are enlarged, and swelling in the various parts of the body such as the groin, leg, arm, underarms and neck.
Common Causes of Cancer of the Bone Marrow
Experts are still not certain as to why bone marrow cancer develops. Some possible causes, triggers, or risk factors may include:
- being morbidly obese
- cigarette smoking
- previous radiation therapy or chemotherapy
- family or medical history of cancer of the bone marrow
- plasma disorders or an immune system that has been suppressed or compromised
- viral infections such as herpes virus
- different retroviruses, hepatitis or HIV
- atomic radiation exposure
- exposure to certain chemicals that are toxic such as agricultural products, cleaning formulas, exhaust from engines, gasoline or fuels, and certain solvents.
Possible Treatments for Bone Marrow Cancer
There are a number of treatment options for bone marrow cancer and these include transplants, radiation therapies, therapy drugs that are targeted and specific, biological therapies, and the most popular form of treatment, chemotherapy.