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What is blood cancer?

You may have heard the names leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma before, but did you know that they are three forms of blood cancer? Like other cancers, blood cancers occur when abnormal blood cells, or cancer cells, interrupt typical blood cell development. Blood is essential in the body, but when blood production is interrupted, the blood cannot function properly, which could lead to various illnesses and even death.

One of the primary purposes of blood is to fight infection. With leukemia, a form of blood cancer that is found in both blood and bone marrow, an abnormal increase in white blood cells prevents bone marrow from producing enough platelets and red blood cells. In addition, the increase in white blood cells cripples the cells' ability to fight infection.

Lymphoma affects the lymphatic system, which creates immune cells and also removes excessive fluids in the body. When abnormal lymphocytes mutate into lymphoma cells and multiple, it corrupts the body's lymph nodes and other body tissues, ultimately affecting the immune system. Myeloma typically affects plasma cells, cells that fight disease and infection by producing antibodies. Affected myeloma cells stop the production of these antibodies, which can make the body especially vulnerable to infection.

Serious diseases such as blood cancer are covered by Social Security disability benefits if the disease is expected to last at least a year or end in death, and if the disability is severe enough that a victim cannot maintain gainful employment. Social Security disability benefits are not expected to fully cover a victim's medical expenses, but may help provide some financial relief while the person is out of work and fighting to get better.

Source: American Society of Hematology, "Blood Cancers," Accessed April 24, 2017

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