Benzene Related Diseases

The dangers of benzene have been well documents for over a century. Although exposure to benzene often results in leukemia, there are several non-cancerous diseases that have been connected to elevated levels of benzene. Some of these diseases include:

Even though these diseases are not leukemia, the distinction is often lost on the victims who suffer from them. Even with proper treatment and care, victims of these diseases face a difficult battle, fraught with pain and suffering.

Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma

Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma is a term that describes all cancerous diseases that originate in the lymphatic system characterized by the absence of Reed-Sternberg cells, a type of cell that is found in a variety of other conditions, including mononucleosis and the Epstein-Bar virus. Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma affects a group of tissues in the body called the lymphatic system, which is one of the main components of the immune system. The lymphatic system is comprised of organs called lymph nodes which produce a chemical called lymph, which distributes disease fighting cells called lymphocytes throughout the body.

In healthy systems, the body only produces a normal amount of lymphocytes to maintain a reserve in case of infection or disease, but if the lymph nodes are damaged or diseased they may overproduce lymphocytes or fail to filter them out of the blood. This build up of extra lymphocytes results in a tumor, which is either malignant (cancerous) or benign (non-cancerous). The danger of lymphatic cancer is that lymph tissue is present in many places throughout the body, and should the tumor become cancerous it can easily spread to the skin, bone marrow, liver, or virtually any organ in the body.

Unfortunately, non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma is extremely difficult to diagnose, because it shares symptoms of many less dangerous conditions. Some of the common signs of non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma include:

  • Unexplained fever
  • Night sweats
  • Constant fatigue
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Irritated, itchy skin
  • Red patches on the skin

Suffering from any of these symptoms is not necessarily non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma, but if you experience swollen glands in your neck, under your arms, or in your chest, it would be best to consult a doctor immediately. Often people will wait for these swollen glands to become painful before they seek medical attention, which only decreases the ability for doctors to properly treat any condition.

Aplastic Anemia

Aplastic Anemia is a devastating condition where the bone marrow does not produce enough new blood cells or stops producing them altogether. Essentially, white blood cells, the cells responsible for fighting infection or disease, get reprogrammed and begin to attack and destroy the bone marrow. Once the stem cells in the bone marrow are injured, they no longer mature into the red blood cells, white blood cells, or platelets that the body needs to survive. Tissues in the body cannot receive the oxygen they need to fuel themselves without red blood cells, without white blood cells the body can no longer fight off infection, and blood cannot clot without a sufficient platelet concentration.

Diagnosing aplastic anemia requires a specific and painful test called a bone marrow biopsy to determine the exact cause of the disease. A doctor inserts a long needle into a thick bone such as the hip or thigh to take a sample of the bone marrow for a biopsy. There are several treatment options available if this test reveals aplastic anemia. Immune-suppressing drugs are frequently used to "calm down" the bone marrow, while mild chemotherapy helps disable the immune system. If these therapies fail, doctors may elect to perform a bone marrow transplant, a procedure that usually cures the condition but has only an 80% success rate.

While most aplastic anemia cases result from an autoimmune disorder such as HIV or AIDS, benzene is also a well known cause of this terrible disease. If left untreated, aplastic anemia usually leads to a rapid and painful death.

Myelodysplastic Syndromes

Myelodysplastic Syndromes are a diverse collection of blood disorders that are often referred to as "pre" leukemia, due to the fact that certain cells can continue to mutate into the various forms of acute leukemia. Between 1974 and 1975, scientists and doctors from France, the United States, and Britain convened to systematically categorize the various conditions and diseases of "preleukemia" into a single, definitive classification. The symptoms of Myelodysplastic Syndromes are very similar to leukemia:

  • Anemia - chronic fatigue, shortness of breath, chills, chest pain
  • Neutropenia (low white cell count) - increased infection potential
  • Thrombocytopenia (low platelet count) - increased bleeding potential

Even though Myelodysplastic Syndromes are not cancerous, doctors use them to gauge a patient's potential to develop leukemia. Even if a patient is spared the horrors of leukemia, Myelodysplastic Syndromes are still devastating health conditions. Patients with Myelodysplastic Syndromes run a greater risk for developing acute leukemia, which is notoriously difficult to treat.

Blood Related Cancers

Even though cancer can affect virtually every tissue in the human body, blood-related cancers have the unfortunate distinction of being some of the deadliest conditions a human being can endure. Because blood flows so freely through so many different organs, any blood-borne malignancy such as leukemia can easily spread its disease causing cells to many systems throughout the body. If an organ or tissues absorbs a sufficient amount of infected blood it will cause cancer in the new location.

Some of the most common blood-related cancers include:

  • Leukemia - the most common blood cancer, leukemia is caused by a mutation in bone marrow, the tissue responsible for manufacturing blood cells
  • Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma: A group of cancers that attacks the lymphatic system, which can easily spread into bone marrow
  • Hodgkin's Disease - a blood-related cancer marked by the appearance of Reed-Sternberg cells
  • Multiple Myeloma - a condition where the plasma cells in bone marrow are destroyed by malignant white blood cells that decreases antibody production and destroys bone tissue

Cancers of the blood are some of the most insidious diseases in existence. Even with proper treatment, many patients still succumb to these conditions. If you suspect that you suffer from any of these cancers, you should seek medical attention right away. A single day can make the difference between life and death.

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