What to Know about Hemophilia and Cancer

Cancer on its own is challenging, but the health problems associated with it add layers of difficulty to the journey.

Hemophilia is just one of these disorders that cancer patients must contend with that can complicate their care. Simply put, hemophilia is when blood does not properly clot. The largest risk is during surgery or injury, when bleeding fails to stop and can be life-threatening. Treatment is available by way of an injection of factor concentrates, which contains the clotting agents found in human plasma.

When it comes to cancer, it is easy to confuse hemophilia with leukemia. However, as anyone with the cancer-type can tell you, there are many more symptoms than excessive bleeding. Weight loss, recurrent nosebleeds, frequent infections, fever, chills and fatigue are some of the most commonly reported symptoms of leukemia. Regardless, if you experience excessive bleeding at all, you should seek medical help.

Although rare, some people with leukemia have had hemophilia at the same time. In a case from the Hemophilia Society of Turkey, it was discovered that two people had developed leukemia out of the 440 people registered with the society. In 2002, the two conditions were found in two teenaged boys. Both needed treatment with daily injections of factor concentrates after they completed their chemotherapy. One of the boys relapsed and died of sepsis, while the other received follow-up care without complications. This is one of several cases that have been discovered since 2002.

But despite its rarity, acquired hemophilia is a risk to cancer patients. It is often triggered by a malignancy and must be treated immediately. That being said, with proper care and treatment, those with hemophilia can lead a regular life, although by some estimates in males, their lifespan is 10 years shorter than typical.

For more information on the condition, visit the Canadian Hemophilia Society website.