Blood Cancer Treatment in India
Blood cancer occurs when something goes wrong with the development of blood cells, affecting their production and functioning in the human body. Most of the blood cancers start in the bone marrow where blood is produced.
The stem cells in the bone marrow then mature and develop into three types of blood cells. Red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets respectively. In case of cancer, the blood production process is interrupted due to the growth of an abnormal type of blood cell. When healthy cells are overcrowded by cancerous cells, the body isn’t able to function normally such as your immune system is not able to fight off infections leaving you sick and unwell. Like with any other cancer, blood cancer treatment in India also depends on the type of cancer you have and its stage.
Though there are over 130 types of blood cancer, three main types include:
1. Leukemia is a cancer that affects the blood and the bone marrow. It is caused by the rapid production of abnormal white blood cells that are unable to fight infection. These abnormal WBCs also impair the ability of the bone marrow to produce red blood cells and platelets.
There are four main types of leukaemia with each requiring a different blood cancer treatment in India.
• Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia- Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia can be defined as overproduction of immature white blood cells, termed as lymphoblasts. These immature cells crowd the bone marrow, preventing it from making healthy blood cells. Furthermore, the inadequate number of red cells and platelets made by the marrow cause anaemia, and lead to easy bleeding and bruising. It is the most common form of cancer in children, but it also affects adults.
• Acute myeloid leukaemia- AML is not a single disease; is a term referred to as a group of leukaemias that are produced in the myeloid cell line in the bone marrow. The main characteristic of it is called myeloblasts or leukaemic blasts, which is basically an overproduction of immature white blood cells. While undergoing your blood cancer treatment in India, your doctor will discuss different kinds of cancers with you so that you can take informed decision about your treatment.
• Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia- Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) is a type of slow-growing leukaemia that affects developing B-lymphocytes (also known as B-cells). Under normal conditions, they produce immunoglobulins (also called antibodies) that help protect our bodies against infection and disease. So, in the people suffering with CLL, the lymphocytes undergo a malignant (cancerous) transition and turn into leukaemic cells.
• Chronic myeloid leukaemia- In Chronic myeloid leukaemia, the bone marrow produces too many white cells, called granulocytes. They gradually mob the bone marrow, impairing normal blood cell production. They may also spill out of the bone marrow and circulate in the bloodstream. As they are not fully mature, they are unable to work properly to fight infections.
2. Lymphoma is a form of blood cancer that starts in the lymph glands or other organs of the lymphatic system. Lymphocytes are white blood cells that fight infection. What really happens is that the abnormal lymphocytes turn into lymphoma cells, which then further multiply and get collected in the lymph nodes and other tissues. After a period, your immune system is impaired because of these cancerous cells. Lymphoma is the most common type of blood cancer in young people aged 15 to 24.
There are two main types of lymphoma:
• Hodgkin lymphoma (formerly known as Hodgkin’s disease)
• Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (formerly known as Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma)
In almost all instances of Hodgkin lymphoma, a particular cell by the name, the Reed-Sternberg cell is seen when cells from the lymph node are examined during diagnosis. This Reed-Sternberg cell, however, isn’t usually found in other types of lymphoma, which are called non-Hodgkin lymphoma. This difference is important, because the blood cancer treatment in India for Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma can be very different.
3. Myeloma is a cancer of the plasma cells. They are white blood cells that produce antibodies that fight ‘disease and infection’ in your body. Usually, new plasma cells are produced to replace older, worn-out cells in an orderly and controlled way. Myeloma cells, however, prevent the normal production of antibodies, leaving your body's immune system weakened and susceptible to infection.
There are several other types of blood cancers too including:
• Essential thrombocythaemia (ET): Essential thrombocythaemia is a rare condition which affects the bone marrow and is usually found in people over 50. It happens when too many platelets are made. This means the number of platelets in the bloodstream becomes higher than normal.
• Polycythaemia vera (PV): Polycythaemia vera also affects the bone marrow leading to too many RBCs, which make the blood too thick. It is more common in men than in women. PV develops very slowly and, for most people, it doesn't affect their normal lifespan.
• Myelofibrosis (MF): In Myelofibrosis, scar tissue builds up inside the bone marrow, and blood cells aren’t made properly. However, the other parts of the body, often the spleen and liver, begin to make blood cells. As the spleen begins to make blood cells, it grows in size causing discomfort.
• Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS): Myelodysplastic syndromes are a group of conditions that affect the bone marrow. There are different types of Myelodysplastic syndromes. While some develop slowly, others could be aggressive.
The type of blood cancer treatment your doctor recommends will depend largely on the type of cancer you have and its stage.
Blood cancers can cause many different symptoms. A few of these are common amongst all blood cancers; while the rest are specific depending on particular types of blood cancer. For example, lymphomas can be characterized by swollen lymph nodes and one of the most common symptoms of myeloma is bone pain, especially in the back. An oncologist look at all these aspects to provide complete and comprehensive blood cancer treatment in India.
The common symptoms of blood cancers can include:
• Unexplained weight loss
• Feeling weak or breathless
• Easily bruise or bleed
• Enlarged lymph nodes
• Swollen stomach or abdominal discomfort
• Frequent and repeated infections
• Fever/night sweats
• Pain in bones/joints
• Itchy skin
• Bone pain (ribs/back)
All blood cancers are caused by mutations in our DNA. However, these changes to our DNA happen for reasons we can’t really explain and are linked to situations we don't understand.
Despite this, research has shown that there are a number of factors that can affect how likely you are to develop a particular type of blood cancer. These ‘risk factors’ include:
• family history and
• radiation or chemical exposure and
It’s however important to note that the risk factors vary among the different types of blood cancer. For example, myeloma only affects adults and is much more common in men and people from an African-Caribbean background, whereas Hodgkin lymphoma usually develops in people aged 15-25 or over 50, and people having problems with their immune system.
Blood cancer treatment in India or a related blood disorder depends on several factors, including the type of disease and a person’s general health.
In cases of acute blood cancers, doctors may advise that chemotherapy be started almost immediately. For other cancers, the oncologist will decide on the treatment after looking at the particular type of blood cancer and patient’s health.
Various options available for Blood cancer treatment in India include:
Chemotherapy is one of the most common blood cancer treatment in India that involves administration of chemicals/medicines to cure cancer. It often involves a combination of drugs that act together to destroy the blood cancer cells. The medicines could be taken either orally, or it may be delivered via a catheter or intravenous line directly into the bloodstream. In most cases, Chemotherapy is given in several cycles with a rest period of a few weeks between each cycle. This is to allow the body to recover from the side-effects of the treatment.
Side effects of chemotherapy depend on the particular drugs taken and the dosage or regimen. Some side effects of drugs include hair loss, nausea, ulcers, loss of appetite, easy bruising or bleeding, exhaustion and an increased chance of infection due to the destruction of white blood cells.
Radiotherapy, also known as Radiation therapy uses high energy x-rays to kill cancer cells and shrink cancers. This blood cancer treatment in India works by damaging the genetic material (DNA) within cells, which prevents them from growing and reproducing. Radiotherapy is regarded as local therapy because it only destroys cancer cells in the treated area.
When radiotherapy is used for blood cancer treatment in India, it's usually part of a treatment plan that includes chemotherapy too. Radiotherapy is also often used to reduce pain or discomfort caused by an enlarged liver, lymph nodes or spleen.
Radiotherapy has similar side effects as that of chemotherapy including nausea and vomiting, hair loss and fatigue. In general, however, the type of side effects seen with radiotherapy depends on the area of the body which has been treated. While undergoing Radiation therapy, you need to get plenty of rest and follow a nutritious diet. Eating healthy during and after cancer therapy can help you manage all the side effects, fight infection, rebuild healthy tissue and maintain body weight and energy.
Stem Cell Transplant
Another option for blood cancer treatment in India is stem cell transplant. This procedure involves replacing blood-forming cells called stem cells that have been damaged as a result of high doses of chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
There are two main types of stem-cell transplants – autologous and allogeneic.
An autologous transplant in blood cancer treatment in India uses patient's stem cells, which were collected in advance and returned to him/her after chemotherapy is over. In an allogeneic transplant, the stem cells are donated from another person, a genetically matched stem cell donor.
Biological therapies may look like chemotherapy, but they work differently. While Biological therapy helps immune system fight cancer, Chemotherapy attacks the cancer cells directly.
As blood cancer treatment in India, biological therapies primarily help control side effects from other treatments like chemotherapy.
The main difference between Chemotherapy and Targeted therapies is that the latter are more efficient in their task acting on cells which contain specific cell markers, and leaving other cells without the markers.
Human body's cells contain thousands of markers that identify that the cells belong to you and what function they perform. Our immune system uses these markers such that when certain WBCs come in contact with other cells, the first thing that they look for is markers that tell if the cell belongs to you or not. If the cell has the markers that determine that it belongs to you, the white blood cells move on. However, if the markers on the cell do not belong to you, the WBCs will attempt to kill it, as it is likely a foreign pathogen (like a bacteria or virus) that could do you harm.
This is exactly how Target therapies work. Each targeted therapy has a specific cell marker that it targets. This ensures only cancerous cells are targeted during the therapy, thus proving itself to be one of the most effective blood cancer treatment in India.
Follow-up care is a must after any successful blood cancer treatment in India. The aim of follow-up is to look out for signs of relapse and treatment complications. For the first year after your treatment, you’ll normally have a check-up every one to two months. After one year, your check-ups will get less and less frequent, until they’re given every year at five years and onwards.
In these check-ups, it's important to report any new signs or symptoms to your healthcare team so that they can investigate these.
Cost of blood cancer treatment in India
When we look at the cost of blood cancer treatment in India, it comes out to be a fraction of what cancer treatments cost in western countries like the US, UK, Germany or other European countries.
For example, treatment cost for Bone Marrow Cancer in India starts from USD 18,000 which is nearly 60 percent less than the US.
The top hematologists and blood cancer specialists in India are trained at the best medical schools and have wide experience in handling various kinds of blood cancer treatment in India. Choosing the best and widely experienced oncologist ensures minimum complications after cancer treatments and much less stress for the patient and the family.
With many top-class hospitals for blood cancer treatment in India, many medical tourists prefer coming to Indian sub-continent for their cancer treatments including colon cancer treatment, breast cancer and cervical cancers.
The best hospitals for blood cancer treatment in India are ranked among the world’s best because of factors like reputation, survival-rate, patient safety and care-related factors. These hospitals with some of the best haematologists and oncologists in India underscore a long-standing commitment to providing the highest-quality care that best meets their patients’ needs.
Some of these names include Max Healthcare, Manipal Hospitals, Fortis Healthcare, BLK, Rockland, Spectra, Medanta, Metro Hospitals, Columbia Asia, Nanavati hospital etc. These hospitals feature some of the most cutting-edge technology used anywhere in the world staffed by the best doctors, nurses and other support staff who are all specialized at providing most time-effective and cost-effective blood cancer treatment in India.