This June, as part of a program supported by the American Society of Hematology and Health Volunteers Overseas. I had the honor of teaching the hematologists at Muhimbili National Hospital in Tanzania about the diagnosis of leukemia and lymphoma. This hospital is the country's leading public hospital, and it is in the city of Dar Es Salaam.
Leukemia and lymphoma are cancers of the white blood cells. As in the United States, the hematologists in Tanzania work to diagnose and treat leukemia and lymphoma.
The physicians at the Muhimbili National Hospital are brilliant, dedicated people that work long hours to save as many lives as they can.
During my time there, I saw many of their patients and taught them how to make the correct diagnosis by examining diseased cells under the microscope. Although they do have access to some advanced tests, these are very limited. Importantly, they lack some necessary tools that are essential for the diagnosis and treatment of these very sick patients. Among the things missing are state-of-the-art microscopes. They are also in great need of an internet-based method to share the images from their cases with foreign experts that can educate them and assist with difficult diagnoses.
The funds raised through this campaign will be used to purchase equipment that is desperately needed to diagnose their patients better and determine the correct treatment. The purchases will make significant changes that will affect the lives of many people who have leukemia and lymphoma.
To aid in the understanding of what leukemia and lymphoma are, I would like to explain what cancer is.
It is usual for cells in each organ to have a fixed life span. Because of this, there are always cells that are dying and cells that are being born to replace them. Think of flaking dry skin. Those dead cells fall off, but, because new cells are growing beneath them, your skin always remains intact.
New cells arise from very immature cells that divide to create more of themselves. The cells make a copy of their DNA and split into two cells with the same DNA programming. Each time a cell divides, there is a tiny chance that an error will be made when copying the DNA. Some of these errors can cause the cells to act differently than they are supposed to. These are what we call cancer cells.
Cancer can develop in any of the body's tissues, and all cancers originate from a person's healthy cells. For instance, colon cancer, prostate cancer, and breast cancer all began as normal cells in those organ
In blood, there are several types of cells: red cells, white cells, and platelets. Red cells carry oxygen, and they become very red when they have fresh oxygen to bring to parts of your body. Platelets help to form blood clots. These mix with the red cells to form a scab on a scape on your arm. White cells fight infections.
All of the blood cells are made in the bone marrow. The marrow is the "factory" where the young cells live and produce other cells to circulate in arteries and veins.
Lymphoma and leukemia are cancers of the white blood cells. When they are made incorrectly, one of the only ways to determine the underlying cause is to take a sample of bone marrow and look at it under a microscope. That is why having a good microscope is critical.
Careful examination of the cells that are in the bone marrow is essential to making the correct diagnosis. Armed with the information that they have obtained through studying the cells under the microscope, hematologists can choose the proper therapy to treat their patients. Much hangs upon this diagnosis, as it will determine what kind of chemotherapy or other treatment should be given to their patients to save or prolong their lives.
I am Jared Block, M.D.
I am a hematopathologist working with the Levine Cancer Institute as a member of Carolinas Pathology in Charlotte, NC
More information about me can be found on my LinkedIn page:
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This fundraiser is not hosted by HVO or ASH – all donations are considered personal gifts to Dr. Block and not guaranteed to be tax-deductible. Please consult a tax professional for information on tax deductions and charitable donations.