According to the American Cancer Society, over 170,000 people will be diagnosed with either leukemia or lymphoma in 2016. As with most types of cancer, education is key to preventing, screening, or treating leukemia and lymphoma. Because September is Leukemia and Lymphoma Awareness Month worldwide, we’re sharing an overview of the diseases along with treatments and ways to help if a loved one is living with either.
Leukemia, a cancer in the blood, originates in the cells of the bone marrow. Once the cell changes and becomes a leukemia cell, it may expand and live beyond the life of a normal blood cell. As it progresses and grows, the leukemia cells can take over healthy cells and affect normal cell development. Each type of leukemia develops at a different speed than the others and many people can live healthy lives after diagnosis and treatment. Over the past four decades, advancements in treatments have helped bolster survival rates, though it is still responsible for more deaths among young adults than any other type of cancer.
Lymphoma is a blood cancer that is typically found in masses within the lymph system. The lymph system, which is a network of vessels similar to veins that carry blood, is responsible for carrying white blood cell fluid throughout the body to fight infection and bacteria. Hodgkin’s lymphoma, named for the scientist who discovered the cancer cells, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma are curable fortunately. Like leukemia, the cancer cells will reduce the white blood cells that are necessary for a person’s ability to fight infections and other illnesses.
There are no specific environmental factors that directly foster the growth of these cancers. However, there is some evidence that nearly half of the lymphoma diagnoses included a prior diagnosis of the Epstein-Barr virus. In addition, a person who previously had mononucleosis is three times as likely to develop Hodgkin’s lymphoma as a person who never contracted it. Scientists have not yet determined why but some families have higher incidences of the disease than others and there may be a correlation between siblings who both develop Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Treatment for leukemia or lymphoma depends on the severity of the cancer, the age of the person and baseline health. Treatment may last anywhere between several months to years. In addition to the side effects of any treatment your loved one may be experiencing, caregivers will need to be vigilant due to an increased risk of infection and exhaustion.
- Avoid fatigue. Be sure your loved one eats well consistently, and has the ability to take naps throughout the day. If your loved one becomes overly fatigued, confused or breathless, call the doctor immediately.
- Infection. A caregiver for a loved one receiving chemotherapy must be vigilant against germs. The person receiving treatment, and everyone around him or her, must wash their hands frequently. Discourage relatives and friends from sending live plants or flowers as they may contain germs and bacteria. Avoid contact with all relatives or friends who may be ill with colds or flu viruses.
- Contamination. Foods can cause illness for someone undergoing chemotherapy. Steer clear of fresh fruits and vegetables, raw or undercooked eggs, seafood and meat, and all unpasteurized dairy products and soft cheeses. Keep away from deli meats, cured or uncured, and smoked fish.
Caring for a loved one with a blood cancer can be difficult. Take advantage of sources of information provided by doctors, seek aid through local community organizations, and reach out to family and friends for guidance and emotional support.
Home Care Assistance caregivers can provide compassionate, dependable care to best suit your loved one’s needs. We offer many different levels of expert care and embrace the belief that aging adults can live at home and remain independent longer, giving you and your family peace of mind. Contact one of our Client Care Managers at 1-866-454-4846 to see how our caregivers can help provide your loved one with care at home to successfully recover from a hospital stay.