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Approximately every four minutes, someone in the United States is diagnosed with leukemia, lymphoma or another type of cancer that affects the blood cells, bone marrow or lymphatic system. Due to recent research advances, many of these people are able to successfully overcome these conditions or manage their symptoms while maintaining a high quality of life. In almost all cases, the key to achieving the best possible outcome is early detection.

To enhance the general public’s understanding of hematologic cancers and their early warning signs, the U.S. Congress has designated September as National Leukemia and Lymphoma Awareness Month. The goals of this effort are to get the word out about the prevalence of these complex conditions and their symptoms, and also to point people to trusted information resources, all of which can increase the likelihood of early detection and better outcomes. Toward that end, the cancer experts at Moffitt Cancer Center offer the following information.

What is leukemia?

Leukemia is a type of cancer that affects the white blood cells, which help the body fight off infection. The condition originates in the bone marrow (the soft, spongy substance found within the bone cavities where blood cells are produced). Once formed, these cancerous cells can spread to the blood and circulate throughout the body.

Early signs of leukemia are often difficult to recognize because many tend to be very similar to flu symptoms. Some common signs include:

  • General fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Frequent infections
  • Easy bleeding or bruising
  • Pinpoint blood spots under the skin (petechiae)
  • Dizziness
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weakness
  • Bone or stomach pain
  • Painless lumps (swollen lymph nodes) in the neck, underarms, stomach or groin

What is lymphoma?

Lymphoma is a type of cancer that develops in the infection-fighting cells of the body’s immune system (lymphocytes). There are two main categories of lymphoma-related conditions: Hodgkin disease and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Some symptoms that are common to both categories include:

  • Exhaustion
  • Loss of appetite
  • Night sweats
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck, abdomen or groin
  • Fever
  • Skin rash or itchiness
  • Unintentional weight loss

What to do if you have symptoms

Usually, these possible signs of leukemia and lymphoma are not a cause for alarm and can be attributed to something less serious. However, if the symptoms persist longer than would be expected if they were caused by a bout of the flu, it’s always best to see a physician who can provide an accurate diagnosis and, if necessary, appropriate treatment. Leukemia and lymphoma can potentially be cured, even after the cancer has spread. At Moffitt, our renowned research team is continually evaluating new developments and treatments, and we are making progress toward finding a cure every single day.

Staying informed about the latest news on hematologic cancer prevention, screening and treatment is an important step in reducing your risk of developing leukemia and lymphoma, or – if you have been diagnosed with one of these conditions – achieving the best possible outcome from your treatment. If you would like more information, you can speak with an expert at Moffitt without a referral. Call 1-888-663-3488 or complete our new patient registration form online.