Overview of Blood Cell Cancers

Cancer develops when cells in the body multiply out of control. Blood contains three kinds of cells: red cells, white cells, and platelets. Any of these kinds of cells can develop into cancer cells. So instead of a tumor (a clump of cancer cells) developing, such as in lung cancer, the tumor cells are spread throughout the blood system of the body.

Leukemia under a microscope
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Multiple Myeloma

Multiple myeloma is a blood cell (plasma cell) cancer and b-cell neoplasm most often diagnosed in people older than age 65. In the United States, the risk of multiple myeloma is highest among African-Americans and lowest among Asian-Americans. It is estimated that this cancer affects five to six individuals per 100,000 each year.

Waldenstrom's Macroglobulinemia

In Waldenstrom’s macroglobulinemia, white blood cells called "B lymphocytes" multiply out of control, invading the bone marrow, liver and spleen. People older than age 50 have the highest risk for this type of cancer. It is estimated that about 1,000 to 1,500 people are diagnosed in the United States each year with Waldenstrom’s macroglobulinemia.


Leukemia is a cancer of white blood cells. The white blood cells divide and multiply out of control, forming cancerous blast cells. Leukemia can progress quickly (acute) or slowly (chronic). 


The body's lymph system carries white blood cells that help fight off infections. Lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell) in the lymph system, however, can grow and multiply to create a type of cancer called "lymphoma."

Specialized Medical Treatment

Blood cell cancers require special types of medical treatment depending on the type of cancer, how advanced it is and whether it has spread to other parts of the body. A hematologist-oncologist is a doctor with special training in the diagnosis and treatment of blood cell cancers. A primary care doctor would refer you to this type of specialist to confirm the diagnosis and develop the best course of treatment for you or your loved one.

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