Bone Marrow Cancer – Survival Rate

What is bone marrow cancer ?

The growth of cancer cells in the bone marrow is referred to as bone marrow cancer.

There are two main types of bone marrow cancer, i.e. primary bone marrow cancers that develop in the bone marrow cells that make blood, and secondary bone marrow cancers that are caused due to the spread of cancer cells from other organs of the body.

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Symptoms of bone marrow cancer

  • Most of the initial symptoms of bone marrow cancer are common symptoms and hence patients generally do not give them much importance. Some of the common symptoms include loss of appetite, fever, inexplicable weight loss and fatigue.

The later stages of bone marrow cancer may elicit the following symptoms:

  • Bone pain
  • Increased tendency to fractures for no apparent cause
  • Presence of a hard lump in the disease bone
  • Dizziness
  • Low red blood cells count or anemia
  • The area near the affected joint or the joint itself, may experience stiffness, tenderness or swelling
  • Shortness of breath
  • Impaired immune system increasing the risk to infections
  • General weakness

Causes of bone marrow cancer

  • Mutations of cells in the bone marrow causes growth of abnormal cells in the bone marrow which causes the primary type of bone marrow cancer
  • Mutations in the cells of any tissue of the body causes cancer of that organ, which then spreads to the bone marrow and results in growth of abnormal cells. This leads to secondary bone marrow cancer.
  • The cause of such mutations is unknown. However, exposure to radiation or harmful chemicals, family history of bone marrow cancer, etc. increases the risk to developing the disease.

Bone marrow cancer treatment

  • Surgery to remove the tumors
  • Chemotherapy involves intravenous injection of special drugs that kill the cancer cells
  • Stem cell transplant involves high doses of chemotherapy that eliminate all cells. They are then replaced with healthy cells
  • Radiation therapy involves the use of extreme rays of radiation to destroy the cancer cells

Bone Marrow Cancer Survival Rate

The survival rate for bone marrow cancer refers to the percentage of patients who survive for a particular number of years after detection of the disease. A five year survival rate would indicate the percentage of patients that survive bone marrow cancer for at least a period of five years after initial diagnosis.

However, it should be noted that the survival rates are only used by doctors to arrive at a rough estimate about the chances of survival of the patients. Survival rates cannot be generalized across all patients of bone marrow cancer, as each individual case is unique and is dependent on a number of other factors such as:

  • The extent of body damage caused by the cancer cells
  • The age of the patient and his/her overall health
  • The type of treatment and the patient’s response to treatment
  • Whether the cancer was detected early or in the advanced stages

The disease isn’t completely curable, but the symptoms can be significantly alleviated with treatment. The average age of bone marrow cancer onset is around 70 years and hence the survival rate is dependent as per the individual case. However, it may be noted that the rapid advancements in medical science has considerable increased the survival rates for bone marrow cancer.

As per the stages of bone marrow cancer the survival rates are as follows:

  • Patients in the first stage can survive for five years or more after diagnosis
  • Patients in the second stage can survive for around 45 months
  • Patients in the third stage can survive for about 29 months

As per the treatment methods, the overall survival rate is:

  • For conventional treatment methods, the survival period is about 3 to 4 years
  • For advanced treatment methods, which include stem cell transplant, the survival period can be 5 to 6 years


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