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Emphasis On Education, Treatment, Prevention During Blood Cancer Awareness Month

(CBS4)- September is Blood Cancer Awareness Month, a time to educate the public on blood cancers, treatment, and prevention. The Colorado Blood Cancer Institute is celebrating 30 years of treating patients who are fighting these diseases. In that time, they've had 5,000 stem cell and bone marrow transplants. On CBSN Denver, we talked to Dr. Jeff Matous, the medical director for the institute's blood and marrow transplant program. He specializes in the treatment of blood cancers including multiple myeloma, lymphoma, and leukemia.

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An employee takes a blood test on January 5 AFP / DAMIEN MEYER (Photo credit should read DAMIEN MEYER/AFP/Getty Images)

"Individually, they're not terribly common compared to some other cancers, but when taken as a whole, blood cancers make up 20 to 25 percent of all cancers," says Dr. Matous. "Some blood cancers are really silent, and they're discovered almost by accident during routine blood work. When patients do have symptoms, they include fatigue, unintentional weight loss, abnormal bleeding, fevers, or infection."

Dr. Matous says getting annual blood work is so important, but says unfortunately, even blood work may not show evidence of blood cancer. Some blood cancers can be partially hereditary, so be sure to let your doctor know of your family medical history.
"Most blood cancers occur just by chance. Sadly, the most common explanation for why people get them is bad luck."

The good news is blood cancers have some of the most cutting-edge research, which is providing new opportunities to find a cure.

"For example, there's a type of leukemia called CML that 30 years ago, we really only could cure it with a bone marrow transplant. Now we have effective oral medication to treat this cancer. We also have a number of new treatments that can harness the patient's own immune system to learn how to better attack the cancer," says Dr. Matous. "When it comes to bone marrow transplants or stem cell transplants, the survival rates and safety have increased dramatically over the last 30 years due to advances in technology."

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