The soft, spongy tissue that is present in the centre of the bone is called as bone marrow. This tissue contains stem cells, which develop into different types of blood cells such as white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets. Bone marrow cancer occurs when malignant cells start developing in the blood forming cancer of the bone marrow. All bone marrow cancer patients have one important question to ask – Is bone marrow cancer curable? Read this piece to find out more about bone marrow cancer.
Bone marrow cancer is classified as primary or secondary bone cancer. The latter occurs when the cancer cells spread to the bone from other organs, whilst the former originates in the cells of the bone itself. Primary bone marrow cancer is further classified into three different types – leukaemia, lymphomas and multiple myeloma. Leukaemia occurs when the bone marrow produces abnormal white blood cells, while multiple myeloma happens when the cancer develops from the plasma cells of the bone marrow. Lymphoma generally affects the lymphatic system, but in some cases, it may affect the bone marrow too. Fever, weight loss, poor appetite, fatigue, bone pain, unexplained fractures, anaemia, dizziness, weakness, swelling and low resistance to infection are some of the common symptoms of bone marrow cancer.
With tremendous advancements in medicine, a wide array of treatments is available to cure bone marrow cancer, such as radio-immunotherapy, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and bone marrow transplants.
- Chemotherapy: The primary form of treatment to make bone marrow cancer curable is chemotherapy. Chemotherapy drugs are given orally or intravenously to destroy the cancer cells. According to Mayo Clinic, common chemotherapy drugs used to cure bone marrow cancer include melphalan (Alkeran), cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan), vincristine (Oncovin), doxorubicin (Adriamycin) and liposomal doxorubicin (Doxil).
- Radiation Therapy: Radiation therapy involves utilisation of high energy penetrating rays in areas where there is high concentration of cancerous cells. This type of bone marrow cancer treatment kills the cancerous cells and hinders its growth remarkably.
- Radio-immunotherapy: Radio-immunotherapy was pioneered by Mark Kaminski, M.D., Director, Adult Hematology Clinic. Doctors concentrate the radiation to specific tumours only thereby reducing the amount of radiation that reaches healthy tissues.
- Bone Marrow Transplants: Bone Marrow cancer is also curable through bone marrow transplants although it is a complex methodology. In this type of treatment, the infected bone marrow is replaced with a healthy bone marrow. The patient gets fresh, healthy cells that can fight infection.
- Bisphosphonates: These are pharmaceutical concoctions that are used to slow down the damage caused by bone marrow cancer. Bisphosphonates reduce bone pain and the risk of bone fractures substantially. These drugs are usually administered orally or intravenously.
Apart from the conventional treatment options, alternative treatments comprising of complementary and natural therapies have also proven to be effective in making bone marrow cancer curable and achieving superior recovery results. Some of these include mind and body medicine, nutritional support, physical therapy and spiritual counselling. However, before considering any course of alternative treatment, it is highly advisable to consult a doctor and chart out a comprehensive treatment plan.
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