Understanding Your Blood and Blood Tests

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Understanding Your Blood and Blood Tests

Transcript Of Understanding Your Blood and Blood Tests

Myeloma Canada
InfoGuide Series
Understanding Your Blood and Blood Tests
www.myeloma.ca

Introduction
This InfoGuide is for people living with myeloma, their families and their caregivers. It will help you learn more about the different types of blood cells, the effects of myeloma and myeloma treatments on the blood, and the key blood tests involved in diagnosing and monitoring myeloma. It also gives you tips on how to track blood test results. As you read through this InfoGuide, you may refer to the “More detail” boxes to read more about selected topics, “Self-help” boxes if you want tips on how to make your healing journey easier, and “Key point” boxes which highlight important facts or instructions. Terms that might be new to you appear in bold the first time they are used. These terms are described in the Glossary beginning on page 16. There is also space for you to write down questions for and answers from your healthcare team on page 15.
Disclaimer
The information in this InfoGuide is not meant to replace the advice of your medical team. They are the best people to ask if you have questions about your individual situation.
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Myeloma Canada
Myeloma Canada is a registered non-profit organization created by, and for, people living with multiple myeloma. As the only national organization exclusively devoted to the Canadian myeloma community, Myeloma Canada has been making myeloma matter since its founding in 2005. Working with leading myeloma researchers and clinicians as well as other cancer organizations and local support groups across Canada, Myeloma Canada seeks to strengthen the voice of the Canadian myeloma community and improve the quality of life of myeloma patients, their caregivers and families through education, awareness, advocacy and research. Myeloma Canada’s goals are to: ■ Provide educational resources to patients, families and caregivers ■ Increase awareness of the disease and its effects on the lives of patients and families ■ Advance clinical research and promote access to new drug trials in Canada ■ Facilitate access to new therapies, treatment options and healthcare resources This InfoGuide is dedicated to the patients and their families who are living with myeloma and to the healthcare professionals and researchers who are working towards more effective treatments and a cure.
If you would like a more general overview of what myeloma is, how it is diagnosed, the most common treatments for it and many of the challenges you face in living with this disease, we recommend you read Myeloma Canada’s Multiple Myeloma Patient Handbook. You can order the Handbook free of charge by emailing Myeloma Canada at [email protected] or by calling toll-free at 1-888-798-5771. The Multiple Myeloma Patient Handbook and other InfoGuides are also available for download at www.myeloma.ca.
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The Micro-Universe of Your Blood Multiple Myeloma and Your Blood Multiple Myeloma Treatments and Your Blood Blood Tests for Multiple Myeloma Questions for Your Healthcare Team Glossary Make Myeloma Matter Acknowledgements Resources

Table of Contents
1 5 7 9 15 16 21 22 23

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The Micro-Universe of Your Blood
On the surface, blood seems fairly simple. It, however, plays an essential role in your health and is actually quite complex once you look at it under a microscope. It helps to energize you by transporting nutrients and oxygen throughout your body and it redistributes body heat to keep you feeling comfortable. Learning more about blood and its components will help you better understand how myeloma and its different treatments affect your blood and explain the purpose of the blood tests that you will undergo as your disease is diagnosed and monitored.

Plasma

55%
Plasma

45%
Red blood cells White blood cells Platelets

Platelet
1| The Micro-Universe of Your Blood

Red blood cell
White blood cell
Figure 1 – Composition of the blood. Nearly 55% of blood is made up of a fluid part called plasma, while the remaining 45% is solid, consisting of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets.

Red blood cells – the oxygen carriers
Red blood cells (RBC's) or erythrocytes carry oxygen to your tissues to keep you healthy and give you energy. They also transport carbon dioxide back to your lungs so it can leave your body when you exhale. Erythrocytes get their red colour from a protein they carry called hemoglobin (Hgb or Hg). If you don’t have enough red blood cells (a condition called anemia), the other cells in your body won’t receive enough oxygen to function properly and you will feel weak and tired. Reticulocytes are young, immature RBC’s that eventually turn into mature RBC’s.
Figure 2 – Red blood cells (RBC's) transport oxygen to the tissues and carbon dioxide to the lungs.
The Micro-Universe of Your Blood | 2

White blood cells – keeping you safe
White blood cells (WBC's) or leukocytes are part of your body’s defense system. Although your body has many other levels of defense – most of which are designed to keep diseasecausing organisms from entering your blood stream – they can fail. That’s when your leukocytes kick into action to fight infections and diseases that have reached or originated in your blood. If you have too few white blood cells (a condition called leukopenia) you will be more likely to get sick with colds, flu and other infections.
Figure 3 – White blood cells (WBC's) help to fight infections and disease.
More detail
The many types of white blood cells There are five different kinds of white blood cells, or leukocytes: 1. Neutrophils kill and ingest bacteria and fungi, and clear away what they
identify as “foreign” debris 2. Lymphocytes are divided into two types. B-lymphocytes can develop into
plasma cells, the cells that produce different types of antibodies called immunoglobulins that protect us from disease. T-lymphocytes and natural killer cells protect against viral infections, and can detect and destroy some types of cancer cells 3. Monocytes eat up dead or damaged cells and help defend against infections 4. Eosinophils kill parasites and are involved in allergic reactions 5. Basophils are involved in inflammatory and allergic reactions
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Platelets – damage control
If you get injured, platelets, or thrombocytes, help stop bleeding and repair damage to your blood vessels by helping to form blood clots. If you have too few platelets (a condition called thrombocytopenia), you could experience one or more of the following signs or symptoms:
■ Easy or excessive bruising ■ Prolonged bleeding from cuts ■ Spontaneous bleeding from your gums or nose
Blood proteins – protection in your plasma
Blood proteins, or serum proteins, are proteins found in your blood plasma, the liquid part of your blood. There are several different types of plasma proteins, but the most important ones for people with myeloma to know about are immunoglobulins, albumin and beta-2 (β2) microglobulin.
Immunoglobulins are antibodies that protect us against disease. Each immunoglobulin has two parts: two heavy chains that are type G, A, D, E or M; and two light chains that are type kappa (κ) or lambda (λ).
Virus or bacteria Figure 4 – Immunoglobulins (antibodies) are Y-shaped molecules. The heavy and light chains of the antibody contain specific binding sites that attach to bacteria or viruses, ultimately leading to their destruction thereby protecting against disease.
Heavy chain
Light chain
Serum albumin is produced in the liver and normally makes up about 60% of human plasma protein.
Beta-2 (β2) microglobulin is a small protein normally found on the surface of many cells, including lymphocytes, and in small amounts in the blood and urine.
The Micro-Universe of Your Blood | 4

Multiple Myeloma and Your Blood
Over-production of plasma cells – too much of a good thing
Now that you know a bit more about blood, it’s easier to understand how multiple myeloma affects it. This cancer causes a specific type of white blood cell, called a plasma cell, to overproduce. It sounds harmless, especially because plasma cells normally protect us from disease and infection by creating antibodies.
But too many plasma cells can cause a number of problems in your body. If you have myeloma, your plasma cells may make up 10% or more of your bone marrow (the spongy inner core of your bone) instead of the normal 2% to 3%, causing the crowding out and suppression of the production of other types of blood cells that you need, such as red blood cells (see page 2), other types of white blood cells (see page 3) or platelets (see page 4).
More detail
Myeloma: cancer of the bone marrow Because plasma cells are formed from B cells in your bone marrow, multiple myeloma is often referred to as a cancer of the bone marrow.
The malignant or mutated plasma cells also usually pump out only one type of plasma protein (see page 4), called a clone, instead of the variety of immunoglobulins or antibodies that they are supposed to. This abnormal clone is referred to by the medical community as a myeloma paraprotein or monoclonal protein (M-protein), and shows up in blood tests as a monoclonal spike, which is also called an M-spike or M-peak. Your blood tests may additionally show an increase in beta-2 microglobulin.
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BloodBlood CellsMyelomaDiseaseTypes