A woman looking around at different conditions surrounding her

Blood Cancer and Other Health Conditions

Navigating a blood cancer diagnosis can be challenging on its own, let alone with other health conditions occurring alongside it. When 2 or more conditions happen within the same person at the same time, they are called co-occurring or comorbid conditions. In some cases, having 1 condition may increase a person’s risk of getting another comorbid condition. In other instances, comorbid conditions may have nothing to do with 1 another. Regardless of how co-occurring conditions have developed, they can still be incredibly difficult to manage.

We conducted our 3rd Annual Blood Cancer In America survey to learn more about the common comorbid conditions in the blood cancer community. More than 2,000 people with blood cancer completed the survey and provided a unique perspective of conditions that occur alongside blood cancer. The vast majority of respondents – 90 percent – shared that they are navigating other health conditions along with their blood cancer diagnosis.

Common comorbidities: neuropathy, high blood pressure, and more

Survey responses that many people with blood cancer must also manage neuropathy and high blood pressure. These were noted by about 1 out of every 3 respondents. A number of respondents shared that they also experienced allergies and osteoarthritis.

  • 32 percent had neuropathy (numbness, pain, and weakness from nerve damage)
  • 31 percent have high blood pressure (hypertension)
  • 29 percent have allergies
  • 28 percent have osteoarthritis (arthritis related to wear and tear on the joints)

Obesity and hormone-related issues are also experienced by many

Our body is controlled by all kinds of hormones. Obesity, diabetes, thyroid issues, and more can all be related to changes in our regular hormonal balance. Interestingly, these conditions were commonly reported by those with blood cancer. Survey respondents shared:

  • 24 percent experienced high cholesterol/triglycerides (fat in the blood)
  • 22 percent experienced obesity or were overweight
  • 15 percent experienced thyroid or glandular disease
  • 14 percent experienced diabetes

Although blood cancer itself may not impact hormone balance, it is interesting to note that so many participants are navigating these issues.

Navigating mental health conditions and pain alongside blood cancer

Blood cancer can have a serious impact on mental and emotional health, so it is no surprise that many survey respondents shared their experiences with depression, anxiety, and mood disorders.

  • 23 percent experienced depression
  • 20 percent experienced anxiety and/or panic disorders
  • 13 percent experienced chronic pain
  • 2 percent experienced a mood disorder (bipolar, borderline personality disorder)

Additionally, chronic pain, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue syndrome were noted by a number of survey respondents. These conditions can also increase a person’s risk for developing depression or anxiety as a result of constantly navigating pain.

  • 13 percent experienced chronic pain
  • 7 percent experienced fibromyalgia
  • 6 percent chronic fatigue

Skin cancer and breast cancer are common co-occurring cancers

More than a quarter of survey respondents (27 percent) shared that they had been diagnosed with another form of cancer. The most common cancer reported alongside blood cancer was 15 percent with skin cancer (including melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma), followed by 6 percent with breast cancer.

Other cancers mentioned by smaller numbers of survey respondents include:

Other commonly reported conditions

There were a number of other conditions noted by survey respondents, showing that many people with blood cancer must navigate multiple health conditions on their journey.

  • 21 percent reported GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease)
  • 17 percent reported bone thinning issues (including osteoporosis and osteopenia)
  • 15 percent reported sleep disorders/sleep apnea
  • 13 percent reported asthma
  • 11 percent irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

The 3rd Annual Blood Cancer In America survey was conducted online from September 2019 through February 2020. 1,919 people completed the survey.

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