What is cancer?
  Cancer is Hong Kong's number one killer disease. Each year, there are around 20,000 new cases of cancer diagnosed in Hong Kong and less than half of them turn out to be curable.
What is cancer of the blood?
  Blood cancer may broadly include all forms of malignant diseases of blood cells. Examples of these include acute and chronic leukaemia, Hodgkin's or non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, myeloma, myeloproliferative disease aand myelodyplastic syndrome.
Blood cancer in Hong Kong
  It is estimated that more than 1,000 new cases of blood cancers are diagnosed in Hong Kong each year. At least 10% of them are diagnosed in children. Although it is only the 10th most common cancer, it is the most common cancer seen in young people. Most other cancers affect mainly old people. Blood cancer, however, can affect people of any age, from newborn babies to the elderly.
Types of blood cancer diagnosed in different locations
  Different places in the world appear carry different patterns of blood cancer. Some special types of blood cancer are more commonly seen in Southern China, such as lymphoma of nose and stomach. Hodgkin's lymphoma, follicular lymphoma and chronic lymphocytic leukaemia are types of blood cancer that are less prevalent in Hong Kong.
Rate of Survival
  Blood cancer is one of the most treatable and curable types of cancer and has always been the pioneer in the development of new and effective treatments for other cancers. Extremely effective therapies are now available for many kinds of blood cancer and they have resulted in an improved survival rate and cure in many cases.
Treatments to blood cancer
  Effective modes of therapy for blood cancer include conventional chemotherapy, radiotherapy, bone marrow or stem cell transplants and monoclonal antibodies. New drugs with high specificity against blood cancer are also being developed to enhance treatment efficacy as well as to reduce harmful side effects. They will help improve the quality of life of patients while they are undergoing treatment.
Blood cancer is not always a fatal disease
Acute leukaemia can now be cured in 70-80% of children and up to 60% of young adults through conventional chemotherapy or in some cases, through bone marrow transplant operations.
Chronic myeloid leukaemia can now be cured in up to 70% of cases if a bone marrow transplant can be performed. Gilvec, a very effective new drug designed specifically for the disease, is also available now.
Lymphoma is a highly treatable and curative type of blood cancer. By using conventional chemotherapy for patients with aggressive lymphoma, a 70-80% cure rate is possible for early-stage diseases, and 30-40% for the more advanced-stage diseases. For patients who do not respond to chemotherapy, a stem cell transplant may still save the life of up to 50% of them. Effective new drugs are also becoming available rapidly.
Monoclonal antibodies are now used for the treatment of patients with low-grade lymphoma. Optimal use of these drugs may improve their survival rate.
The life expectancy of patients with myeloma may be prolonged significantly by autologus stem cell transplantation. Younger patients receiving allogeneic bone marrow transplants may also have a chance of being cured.
Myelodysplastic syndrome is a very malignant type of blood cancer. It is invariably fatal if treated only with conventional therapy. However, we may still be able to save the lives of some patients through bone marrow transplantation.
In the past, bone marrow or stem cell transplants were performed only on younger patients with blood cancer due to the severe side effects of the treatment and the high mortality rate when performed on the elderly. Through continuous medical research, the possibility of using a 'less precarious' approach should eventually allow transplants to be performed on more elderly blood cancer patients.