(BPT) - When someone hears the word cancer, they more often think of solid tumor cancers, such as breast and lung cancer. However, one of the more rare cancers, affecting only 10 percent of those estimated to be diagnosed in 2016,[i] are cancers of the blood.

For some, their disease may not show symptoms. However, signs associated with these cancers range from fatigue and weight loss to enlarged lymph nodes and infections of various organs. There are four known types of blood cancer that can affect the bone marrow, blood cells, lymph nodes and other parts of the lymphatic system. These include leukemia; Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma; myeloma; and myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS).

The most common type of adult leukemia in the United States is chronic lymphocytic leukemia, or CLL.[ii] Although it is often a slow-growing blood cancer, CLL can be a complicated disease and many patients and their families may find themselves overwhelmed with the diagnosis and not sure where to begin.

While researchers have not yet identified the actual cause of CLL, what they do know is that certain white blood cells, called B-cells, become damaged in patients with this disease. These damaged cells throw the body’s systems out of balance, causing cancer to develop. These cancerous cells go into the blood where they build up slowly over time, and eventually may also spread to other parts of the body like the lymph nodes, liver and spleen.[iii]

“A blood cancer diagnosis, such as chronic lymphocytic leukemia, can be overwhelming for patients and their families. You may feel anxious and afraid, unsure of where to turn,” said Stephanie A. Gregory, M.D., Elodia Kehm Chair of Hematology – Emeritus and Professor of Medicine at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, IL. “There are a number of tools and communities with free resources and support information to help you take control of your health, your care choices and empower you to confidently approach your treatment.”

Patient resources can offer support in a variety of ways:

Understanding a cancer diagnosisCommunicating effectively with your healthcare teamDiscovering what treatment options may work for youNavigating the ins and outs of insurance and financial assistanceHow you can cope with your disease

It's important to talk with your healthcare team to understand and decide what’s best for you. Additional information can also be found online at MyLifeWithCLL.com, where patients and their loved ones can access free resources, backgrounders and support tools to help manage the many facets of the disease.

“Don't be afraid to ask for and seek out additional help,” Dr. Gregory added. “Remember, we’re in this together.”

[i] Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Facts and Statistics. Available from: https://www.lls.org/http%3A/llsorg.prod.acquia-sites.com/facts-and-statistics/facts-and-statistics-overview/facts-and-statistics?src1=27336&src2.  Accessed August 2016.

[ii] Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia. Available from: http://www.lls.org/leukemia/chronic-lymphocytic-leukemia?src1=20032&src2.  Accessed August 2016.

[iii] American Cancer Society. Detailed guide: what is chronic lymphocytic leukemia. http://www.cancer.org/cancer/leukemia-chroniclymphocyticcll/detailedguide/leukemia-chronic-lymphocytic-what-is-cll. Accessed August 2016.