Some leukaemias and lymphomas are a result of exposure to chemicals, due to previous radiation treatments, or due to rare genetic conditions but, for most cases, the cause is unknown. Treatment depends on the type of bone marrow disorder, its severity, and the symptoms it is causing. Treatment often changes over time.
While acute leukaemia is sometimes curable, other bone marrow disorders are not. Leukaemias are frequently treated with chemotherapy or radiation. The goal of treatment is to drive the disease into remission and, if possible, to kill all of the abnormal blood cell population, allowing normal cells to reproduce and restore blood cell function.
Treatment for bone marrow disorders often includes therapies for symptom relief. This may involve blood transfusions if anaemia is present or blood removal (venesection) if the bone marrow is making too many RBCs. Platelet transfusions may be necessary to control excess bleeding, while platelet removal (plateletpheresis to filter out platelets) may rarely be required with excess platelet production. Frequent infections may necessitate antibiotic therapy and the administration of factors (granulocyte-colony stimulating factor “G-CSF” or granulocyte monocyte stimulating factor “GM-CSF”) to stimulate replication of the haemopoietic stem cells that thus increases granulocytes and monocytes. Iron deficiencies may require iron supplementation.
If the bone marrow disorder is severe and not responding to other therapies, a bone marrow transplant may be indicated. Bone marrow may be taken from the patient, "cleaned" of abnormal cells, and frozen - to be reintroduced into the patient following treatment. It may also come from a suitable donor - most frequently a relative.
New therapies for bone marrow disorders continue to emerge from research and clinical trials. Patients should talk to their doctors about the treatments that are best for their condition.