Healthy Living: Blood Cancer Awareness Month


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September is National Blood Cancer Awareness Month. It is an opportunity to bring awareness to a set of cancers that affects more than a million Americans-- adults and kids, alike.   

Dr. Drew Oliveira is the Senior Executive Medical Director with Regence BlueShield and he says blood cancers happen when abnormal cells start growing out of control, interrupting the function of normal blood cells, which fight off infection and also produce new blood cells, “Most blood cancers or hematologic cancers start in the bone marrow. Which is where your blood is produced.” 

There are 3 types of blood cancer. Leukemia, Lymphoma, this does include non-Hodgkin and Hodgkins, and myeloma.  According to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, one person in the United States is diagnosed with a blood cancer every minute! 

Dr. Oliveira explains what we can look out for, “Blood cancers can present like many common things. They can present with a fever, but usually, it is a prolonged fever for many days. You may have weight loss that’s really not explained by dieting or exercise. You could have excessive fatigue, you know just so tired that you can’t get out of bed, bone and joint pain can all be types of symptoms associated with it.” 

And because a lot of these symptoms are common with many other diseases, Dr. Oliveira says it is important to consult your doctor. You can go and ask for a simple blood test and that will help them figure out what is going on.  

“We don’t really know exactly how many cancers occur. We do know that there’s certain things to avoid. Things like radiation, chemicals like pesticides or benzenes, and smoking can certainly increase your risk for certain types of these blood cancers, but many of them, we just don’t know the cause.” 

Dr. Oliveira says there is still a lot of work to be done, but he knows first hand how important it is to keep yourself healthy, “As a survivor myself of childhood cancer, I certainly encourage everyone to become very aware of your bodies and what is going on within them.” 

Dr. Oliveira says because of continued research, the survival rates for Americans with blood cancer continue to increase, which of course is promising. 

  • This year the National Blood Cancer Conference is going virtual. It is being held on September 12th. Click here to register. 
  • The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s light the night walk is set to happen October 16th of this year. Click here to register.

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