My Blood, My Health

Our blood holds important clues to how our bodies are working and can tell us whether further evaluation is needed.

Learn more about the connection between blood tests and signs of what’s happening inside your body. It’s important to communicate openly with your physician about symptoms you may be experiencing and how they impact your quality of life.

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A blood test can give the answers

Unlike for other cancers there are no screening tests to detect blood cancers, but there are signs. If something doesn’t feel right, get your blood tested. Just a few drops of blood and behind the scenes laboratory testing can give doctors clues that are needed to see what’s going on inside your body.

The big picture

There are about 137 different types of blood cancers and related disorders that affect an estimated 138,000 Canadians.1

The main types of blood cancer include:

  • LEUKEMIA: A type of cancer of the blood and bone marrow, caused by the overproduction of abnormal white blood cells that can’t fight infection
  • LYMPHOMA: A type of blood cancer that develops in the lymphatic system, which removes excess fluids from the body and produces immune cells
  • MYELOMA: A type of cancer that begins in the bone marrow affecting the plasma cells – white blood cells that produce antibodies to fight disease and infection in the body

and other less common blood cancers:

  • MYELOPROLIFERATIVE NEOPLASMS (MPN): types of blood cancer that begin with an abnormal mutation in a bone marrow stem cell
  • MYELODYSPLASTIC SYNDROMES (MDS): which are a group of diseases that are often referred to as bone marrow failure disorders1,2

For more information about these blood cancers and related disorders, see Resources

Just like hockey is in our blood, so are important clues to our health

Hockey legends Kerry Fraser and Paul Henderson share their personal experience with important message for Canadians to not brush off changes in how you are feeling and be open about unusual symptoms.

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Did you know?

Most blood cancers are not genetic or inherited but are caused by an acquired mutation in the DNA of stem cells which produce lymph or blood-forming cells.1

Taking a closer look

Have you ever wondered what your blood is made up of?

It’s made up of different cell types. The main ones are:

  • Red blood cells (also called erythrocytes) that carry oxygen to and carbon dioxide from your body
  • White blood cells (also called leukocytes) that fight infection
  • Platelets (also called thrombocytes) that help blood to clot3

What they all have in common is that they come from stem cells in the bone marrow. The uncontrolled growth of abnormal, cancerous blood cells interrupts normal blood cell development and is at the root of most blood cancers.2

Taking a closer look starts with a simple blood test called a complete blood count (CBC) that can help detect an underlying condition.3

A complete blood count test is a simple blood test that is conducted for the screening of certain disorders that may be affecting your health by examining the numbers and features of your blood cells.3

A CBC looks at your:

  • Red blood cells (RBCs)
  • White blood cells (WBCs)
  • Platelets3

Why doctors order blood tests

Jennifer is a nurse clinician and a big part of her job is getting people’s blood tested. Jennifer explains how blood tests can by used to detect blood cancer or blood disorders.

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Did you know?

Determining the number of platelets in the blood with a platelet count can help diagnose a range of disorders having to do with too few or too many platelets.4 One of these is immune thrombocytopenia (ITP), a common blood disorder that can cause easy or excessive bleeding or bruising. People with ITP have low levels of platelets - the cells that help blood clot.5


Being aware of the possible signs is a starting point and talking about them is a good next step.

Do, however, keep in mind that each person and each blood cancer is different and not everyone will have the same symptoms, but there are some common symptoms:

  • Extreme tiredness
  • Repeated infections
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Easy bruising and / or bleeding
  • Drenching night sweats
  • Itchy skin
  • Lumps or swellings in your neck, head, groin or stomach
  • Bone and / or joint pain.6

The important thing to do is act when something seems different. Be open to sharing how you are feeling with your doctor. If your symptoms persist, inform your doctor of this so he or she may consider whether it may be time for a blood test.


If you are interested in learning more about blood cancers and related disorders, the following resources may be helpful:

This listing of websites is provided as a service and does not imply an endorsement by or association with Heal Canada.

My Blood, My Health is a project of Heal Canada.

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