Is Thalassemia A Form Of Cancer?
Thalassemia is not a form of cancer. It is one of the many types of blood disorders. However, some studies show that those having thalassemia may be at an increased risk of getting blood cancers and abdominal cancer than those who are not affected by this disorder. Blood disorders affects any of the three major components of blood-
- Red blood cells or RBCs
- White blood cells or WBCs
- Blood disorders may even affect the plasma, which is the liquid portion of the blood
- Thalassemia is a blood disorder in which RBCs are affected.
Signs And Symptoms Of Thalassemia
RBCs perform an important function of carrying oxygen to all the cells in our body. The cells use this oxygen as food to function properly. If there won’t be enough RBCs in the body, there also will not be proper oxygen supply to the cells in our body. This may cause various symptoms like tiredness, breathlessness, fatigue in the body. This condition is known as anemia. Those suffering from thalassemia may get anemia, which can be mild or severe in nature. Severe anemia can damage the organs, cause organ failure or even lead to death. Signs and symptoms of thalassemia-
- Tiredness or fatigue
- Yellowish and pale skin and eyes
- Slow growth
- Dark colored urine
- Bone deformities especially of the face
The signs and symptoms of thalassemia vary according to the type of the disease. Some types present with mild symptoms while other types present with more severe symptoms.
Diagnosis Of Thalassemia
Before starting any kind of treatment, it is very essential to establish a confirmed diagnosis of thalassemia. This is especially important because the treatment of thalassemia involves procedures like blood transfusion. The tests that need to be performed are as follows-
- A detailed medical history is taken to confirm the reason for anemia, as anemia can be caused by various other factors including nutritional deficiencies
- Also, correcting these factors may increase the hemoglobin significantly, to rule out the need for transfusion, which can be equally dangerous
After proper evaluation of these factors, other tests should be performed, which may include the following- Complete blood count (CBC) is done. The CBC can tell how many red blood cells are present in the blood and how much hemoglobin do they have. It also tells the size and shape of RBCs, which is also known as red cell indices. This consists of MCV, which tells the size of red blood cells
- A low count of MCV usually can be an indication of thalassemia
- If MCV is low and iron deficiency is not a cause of that MCV, then thalassemia is considered
- Blood smear test is also done, which is performed by taking a thin layer of blood and treating it with a special stain
- In thalassemia the RBCs can be smaller in size which are called microcytic RBCs with a low MCV
- They can also be paler which is known as hypochromic
- They can vary in size and shape
- They can also have a nucleus, whereas normal RBCs do not have a nucleus
- They can have unevenly distributed hemoglobin
- Hemoglobin electrophoresis is the most important and first of the diagnostic tests
- However, genetic analysis or testing is to be done in both cases-beta thalassemia and alpha thalassemia.
- Hemoglobinopathy result is used for newborn hemoglobin screening and prenatal screening especially for parents who have a high risk for hemoglobin abnormalities.
- Genetic testing by using amniotic fluid is used rarely, when a fetus is suspected to be at a higher risk of getting thalassemia.
- This is usually done when both parents are carriers, because that increases the risk of the newborn getting a more severe form of the disease.
- Parents and siblings should also be tested.
Thalassemia is an inherited blood disorder. It is a type of blood disorder that affects RBCs. Thalassemia is not a form of cancer.