Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center

Prevention: Leukemia, Lymphoma and Myeloma

Head and neck cancer is a term used to describe a variety of soft tissue cancers that occur in the mouth, throat, tongue, lips, larynx, salivary glands, thyroid gland, and the skin of the face and neck. Each of these cancers involves the uncontrolled growth of cells and is often the result of tobacco use. The most common type of malignant tumor in the head and neck area is Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCCA).

For a more detailed definition and description of a specific head and neck cancer, click on one of two links below.

In this section, you will find detailed diagnostic information on leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma. Just click on the specific link below to read more.

Leukemia

In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for leukemia may include the following:

Bone Marrow Aspiration And Biopsy—Marrow (the soft, sponge-like tissue in the center of most large bones that produces white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets) may be removed by aspiration (the removal of a sample of fluid and cells through a needle) or a needle biopsy under local anesthesia. In aspiration biopsy, fluid is removed from the bone marrow using a needle and syringe. In a needle biopsy, marrow cells (not fluid) are removed.

Complete Blood Count (CBC)—A measurement of size, number, and maturity of different blood cells in a specific amount of blood. Additional blood tests may also be ordered.

Computed Tomography Scan (CT or CAT Scan)—A noninvasive procedure that takes cross-sectional images of the body to detect abnormalities that may not show up on an ordinary X-ray.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)—A diagnostic test that uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies, and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body.

X-ray—A diagnostic test that uses invisible energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film.

Ultrasound (also called Sonography)—A diagnostic imaging technique that uses high-frequency sound waves and a computer to create images of blood vessels, tissues, and organs. Ultrasounds are used to view internal organs as they function and to assess blood flow through various vessels.

Lymph Node Biopsy—A procedure performed to remove tissue or cells from the body for examination under a microscope.

Spinal Tap/Lumbar Puncture—A procedure to measure pressure in the spinal canal and brain using a special needle placed into the lower back, into the spinal canal. A small amount of cerebral spinal fluid (the fluid that bathes the brain and spinal cord) is generally removed and sent for testing to determine if there is an infection or other problems.

Lymphoma

In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for Hodgkin’s disease and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma may include the following:

X-rays Of The Chest, Bones, Liver, Spleen, And Lymphatic System—A diagnostic test that uses invisible energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film.

Additional blood tests and other evaluation procedures.

Lymph Node Biopsy—A procedure performed to remove tissue or cells from the body for examination under a microscope.

Bone Marrow Aspiration And Biopsy—Marrow (the soft, sponge-like tissue in the center of most large bones that produces white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets) may be removed by aspiration (the removal of a sample of fluid and cells through a needle) or a needle biopsy under local anesthesia. In aspiration biopsy, fluid is removed from the bone marrow using a needle and syringe. In a needle biopsy, marrow cells (not fluid) are removed.

Computed Tomography Scan (CT or CAT Scan)—A noninvasive procedure that takes cross-sectional images of the body to detect abnormalities that may not show up on an ordinary X-ray.

Ultrasound (also called Sonography)—A diagnostic imaging technique that uses high-frequency sound waves and a computer to create images of blood vessels, tissues, and organs. Ultrasounds are used to view internal organs as they function and to assess blood flow through various vessels.

Myeloma

Multiple myeloma may be found as part of a routine physical examination before patients have symptoms of the disease. Although some patients with multiple myeloma have no symptoms at all, the following are the most common symptoms of this disease, according to the American Cancer Society:

Bone Pain—Plasma cell tumors can release substances that activate bone-absorbing cells called osteoclasts. These can cause small areas of bone weakness that are often painful and can lead to osteoporosis (widespread bone weakness). Localized and widespread bone changes increase a patient’s risk of fractures (broken bones) resulting from relatively minor stress or injury. Any bone may be affected, but pain over the backbone, hip bones, and skull is particularly common.

Symptoms Of Blood Problem—When myeloma cells replace the normal blood-forming marrow cells, shortages of red blood cells, white blood cells, and blood platelets result. A reduced amount of red blood cells, a condition called anemia, causes weakness, reduced ability to exercise, shortness of breath, and dizziness. Too few white blood cells (a condition called leukopenia) lowers resistance to infections such as pneumonia. When blood platelet counts are low (a condition called thrombocytopenia), even minor scrapes, cuts, or bruises may cause serious bleeding.

Nervous System Symptoms—Weakness and collapse of spinal bones can compress important nerves, causing severe pain, numbness, and/or muscle weakness. This is a medical emergency and your doctor must be notified as soon as possible. As the minerals from damaged bone are absorbed, the blood calcium levels rise. Because calcium affects nerve cell function, too much of this mineral in the blood can cause weakness and mental confusion.

Occasionally, the abnormal proteins produced by myeloma cells can be damaging to nerves, causing weakness and numbness. In some patients, large amounts of abnormal myeloma protein can cause the blood to “thicken.” This can slow circulation to the brain and cause mental confusion, dizziness, and stroke-like symptoms. Patients with these symptoms should call their doctor. This complication can be treated relatively easily by removing a portion of the blood causing the problem, a procedure called plasmapheresis.

Kidney Symptoms—The abnormal amount of myeloma protein can damage the kidneys. This reduces a person’s ability to dispose of excess salt, fluid, and body waste products.

High Blood Calcium—Sometimes the myeloma causes bones to dissolve so quickly that large amounts of calcium are released into the blood (hypercalcemia). This can cause the kidneys to fail. One symptom is excessive thirst and dehydration. Others are loss of appetite, feeling drowsy or sleepy, and constipation.

Infections—Myeloma patients are about 15 times more likely to develop infections. The most common and serious of these is pneumonia.

When patients do have symptoms, the doctor generally asks about their personal and family medical history and does a complete physical examination. Generally, the doctor also will order a number of tests including:

X-rays—To determine whether any bones are damaged or broken.

Additional Blood And Urine Tests—To look for high levels of antibody proteins that are associated with the disease.

Bone Marrow Aspiration And Biopsy—Marrow (the soft, sponge-like tissue in the center of most large bones that produces white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets) may be removed by aspiration (the removal of a sample of fluid and cells through a needle) or a needle biopsy under local anesthesia to determine whether myeloma cells are present. In aspiration biopsy, fluid is removed from the bone marrow using a needle and syringe. In a needle biopsy, marrow cells (not fluid) are removed.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)—A diagnostic test that uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies, and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body. An MRI can help determine the number and size of tumors in the bones.