Related conditions

There are many blood conditions that LBC can offer further information and support around. Some of these are listed below.

Acute promyelocytic leukaemia (APL or APML)

APML is a sub-type of AML. It behaves slightly differently and is treated with different chemotherapy drugs. Click here for a useful booklet from Leukaemia & Lymphoma Reseach (UK).

Amyloidosis

Treated in a similar way to myeloma, amyloidosis is a condition in which plasma cells produce an abnormal protein called amyloid. This abnormal protein is broken down very slowly by the body, resulting in deposits of amyloid as it accumulates in the tissues and organs of the body, disrupting their function. Amyloid deposits can build up almost anywhere in the body. Each patient has a different pattern of amyloid deposition, and organs such as the heart and kidneys are commonly affected.

Aplastic anaemia

Aplastic anaemia is not a form of cancer. It is a rare condition characterised by a significant reduction in the number of red cells, white cells and platelets in the bone marrow. This occurs when the bone marrow fails to produce sufficient new numbers of these cells. On examination following a biopsy, the bone marrow often shows that normal cells have been replaced by fat cells.

The cause of aplastic anaemia is thought to be an autoimmune response by the body, whereby the immune system starts to destroy tissues within it. It may be caused by triggers such as a response to certain drugs, exposure to certain chemicals or as the result of a virus.

Chronic eosinophilic leukaemia (CEL) / Hypereosinophilic syndrome

Chronic eosinophilic leukaemia (also known as hypereosinophilic syndrome) is a rare myeloproliferative disorder in which too many eosinophils (a type of white blood cell) are made in the bone marrow. These cells spill out of the bone marrow and accumulate in the blood and other tissues around the body.

Chronic myelomonocytic leukaemia (CMML)

Chronic myelomonocytic leukaemia is a type of myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) with higher than normal white counts in the blood, mainly due to abnormal monocytes and myelocytes (immature white cells). Chemotherapy drugs given orally, or sometimes by injection, may be used to control the level of the white counts.

Essential thrombocythaemia

Essential thrombocythaemia is a disorder in which too many platelets are produced in the bone marrow. Platelets are normally needed in the body to control bleeding; however, excess numbers of platelets can lead to abnormal blood clotting, which can block the flow of blood in the blood vessels. Essential thrombocythaemia is classified as a myeloproliferative disorder.

Haemochromatosis

Haemochromatosis is a genetically inherited disorder that disrupts iron regulation in the body. Iron is carried by red blood cells and plays a vital role in carrying oxygen around the body. In haemochromatosis the body stores excess iron, which can accumulate and cause serious damage to vital organs, such as the liver.

Haemochromatosis can usually be diagnosed by a simple blood test. The disease can often go unnoticed in younger years and symptoms occur as iron slowly accumulates. Symptoms include tiredness, abdominal discomfort, joint pains and general unwellness.

Haemophilia

Haemophilia is a hereditary bleeding disorder – people are affected from birth. The blood of a person with haemophilia does not clot normally. This is because one or more of the plasma proteins needed to form a clot and stop the bleeding, is either missing or reduced. There are 13 main clotting factors (identified by roman numerals) that work together to produce a clot. If one factor is missing the chain reaction is broken, clots will not form properly, and bleeding will continue.

A person with haemophilia may bleed for longer than other people; and in some cases may not stop without adequate treatment. There are other types of bleeding conditions, such as Von Willebrand’s disorder, that are also supported by the Haemophilia Foundation of New Zealand.

Immune thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP)

ITP (also known as idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura or immune thrombocytopenia) is an autoimmune disease. In autoimmune diseases, the body mounts an immune attack toward one or more seemingly normal organ systems. In ITP, platelets are the target. They are marked as foreign by the immune system and eliminated in the spleen, the liver, and by other means. In addition to increased platelet destruction, some people with ITP also have impaired platelet production. With few platelets, people with ITP often have bleeding symptoms such as spontaneous bruising, tiny red dots on the skin, or for women, heavy periods. More severe bleeding symptoms include blood blisters on the inside of the mouth, and blood in the urine or stool.

Treatments for ITP vary depending on the platelet count, severity of symptoms, age, and lifestyle. The Platelet Disorder Support Association (USA) also has some useful information.

Mastocytosis

Mastocytosis is a disorder that results from the overproduction of mast cells (a type of white blood cell) in the bone marrow. These cells accumulate in the blood, spleen, skin and other body tissues. Excess numbers of mast cells release large amounts of histamines and other substances which can cause allergic-type reactions in affected tissues. For example, when these substances collect in the skin they tend to cause an itchy rash. Other allergic-type symptoms may include abdominal pain and difficulty breathing. Medications called anti-histamines are used to prevent and reduce allergic reactions. Mastocytosis is classified as a myeloproliferative disorder.

Monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS)

MGUS is a non-cancerous condition related to myeloma. Similar to myeloma, MGUS involves the production of paraprotein by plasma cells. MGUS doesn’t cause any symptoms and it is usually picked up during a routine blood or urine test. People diagnosed with MGUS don’t require any treatment apart from regular follow-up by their doctor, usually on a yearly basis to have their protein levels checked. Over time a small number of people with MGUS may go on to develop myeloma. For this reason, MGUS is often referred to as a ‘pre-cancerous’ condition but a change from MGUS to myeloma only occurs in approximately 1% of people with MGUS each year.

Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS)

Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) are a group of diseases which all affect, to a greater or lesser extent, the production of normal blood cells in the bone marrow. MDS is also sometimes referred to as myelodysplasia.

In MDS, abnormal bone marrow stem cells produce increased numbers of abnormal blood cells. These cells do not grow properly and often die prematurely. This results in lower numbers of normal red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets being produced. The blood cells that do survive are often of poor quality, are abnormal in appearance (dysplastic) and unable to function properly.

The release of these abnormal cells from the bone marrow into the blood stream is also defective. This means that people with MDS often have a very active bone marrow but a low number of circulating blood cells. Without enough red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets you can become fatigued, more susceptible to infections, and can bleed and bruise more easily.

In approximately 15 per cent of cases, people with MDS have very low numbers of cells in their bone marrow. This is referred to as hypoplastic myelodysplasia. There are different types of MDS and the disease can vary in its severity and in the degree to which normal blood cell production is affected. People with mild disease are often found to have only anaemia, or they might have a lower than normal white blood cell or platelet count. In many cases they have few, if any, troubling symptoms from their disorder. In more severe cases, the lack of circulating blood cells is more pronounced, causing more symptoms. Some cases of MDS, approximately 30 per cent overall, have the potential to progress to acute myeloid leukaemia, and MDS is therefore a pre-leukaemic disease.

Our information booklet on MDS is available here. You can also obtain a hard copy free of charge by contacting LBC on 0800 15 10 15 or info@leukaemia.org.nz

View Jock’s story here

Myeloproliferative Neoplasms (MPN) - formerly called Myeloproliferative disorders (MPD)

Myeloproliferative disorders is the general name given to a group of conditions where there is an overgrowth of cells in the bone marrow, often leading to increased numbers of cells in the blood.

The name comes for the Greek word for bone marrow “myelo”, and proliferative because there is an overgrowth of the cells there. Myeloproliferative disorders are a clonal overgrowth of blood cells.

In myeloproliferative disorders the cells in the bone marrow multiply in an uncontrolled way. In contrast with leukaemia, where there is an overgrowth of immature cells. In myeloproliferative disorders the cells mature with normal function, there are just too many of them. Myeloproliferative disorders are chronic diseases that, in most cases, remain stable for many years and progress gradually over time.

Our information booklet on MPN is available here. You can also obtain a hard copy free of charge by contacting LBC on 0800 15 10 15 or info@leukaemia.org.nz

Plasma cell leukaemia

Rarely, plasma cells can spill out of the bone marrow and are found in the blood in large numbers. This condition is called plasma cell leukaemia. It can occur occasionally when the disease is first picked up and it also occurs in people who have been treated for myeloma for some time. It is generally more difficult to treat than the related condition myeloma.

Plasmacytoma

A mass of myeloma cells is called a plasmacytoma and these can form in the bone, skin, muscle or elsewhere in the body. If only found in one site the condition is described as a solitary myeloma or solitary plasmacytoma. A mass of myeloma cells outside the bone is called an extra medullary or soft tissue plasmacytoma. Plasmacytomas can sometimes be successfully treated using radiotherapy alone but careful follow up is required since people with solitary plasmacytoma often go on to develop myeloma.

Polycythaemia vera

Polycythaemia vera (previously known as polycythaemia rubra vera) is a disease in which there are more red cells in the blood than normal. Because of this, the blood thickens, and doesn’t flow easily. Polycythaemia vera is classified as a myeloproliferative disorder.

Primary myelofibrosis

Primary myelofibrosis (also called idiopathic myelofibrosis) is a disorder in which normal bone marrow tissue is gradually replaced with a fibrous scar-like material. Overtime, this leads to progressive bone marrow failure. Primary myelofibrosis is classified as a myeloproliferative disorder.

Thalassaemia

Thalassaemia describes a group of genetic conditions that are characterised by a reduction in the number of haemoglobin cells (red blood cells) produced in the bone marrow. Haemoglobin is the cell in the body that is responsible for transporting oxygen. A reduction in the number of haemoglobin cells causes anaemia and, if left untreated, it can be life threatening as the vital organs of the body, such as the heart, lungs and liver, may fail due to lack of oxygen.

Thalassaemia can be divided into two main categories, alpha thalassaemia and beta thalassaemia, depending on which part of the haemoglobin is deficient. These can then be divided into three further classifications – thalassaemia minor, thalassaemia intermedia, and thalassaemia major. The treatment for each classification may vary slightly, depending on the individual and the clinical symptoms experienced. More information on thalassaemia and related disorders can be found on the Thalassemia Australia website. Click here for some useful information from Thalassaemia Australia.

Waldenstrom's macroglobulinaemia (WM)

Waldenstrom’s macroglobulinaemia is a type of cancer that has features in common with myeloma and some types of lymphoma. It is also called lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma.

The condition derives its name from a Swedish doctor called Waldenstrom, who described it in 1944.

Waldenstrom’s macroglobulinaemia affects a specific type of white blood cell called the B-lymphocyte. Some B-lymphocytes develop into plasma cells, which produce antibodies when foreign substances such as bacteria or viruses are detected in the body. However, in Waldenstrom’s macroglobulinaemia, B-lymphocytes do not develop into mature plasma cells, but into a type of cancer cell known as a lymphoplasmacytoid cell. These abnormal cells grow more quickly than normal cells would and can invade and build up in the bone marrow, spleen, and lymph glands.

For more information on these conditions or any other rarer blood conditions please contact LBC on 0800 15 10 15 or info@leukaemia.org.nz.