Actor Charles Grodin's Cause Of Death Explained

Charles Grodin, the actor who appeared in "The Heartbreak Kid", "Midnight Run," and "Beethoven," died on Tuesday, May 18 in his home in Connecticut. He was 86 years old. His son, Nicolas, reported that the cause of death was bone marrow cancer (via The New York Times).

Grodin had a long career in Hollywood playing characters that embodied his deadpan humor and father-like charm. After dropping out of the University of Miami to pursue acting, Grodin got his first big break in 1962 after securing a part in a Broadway show called "Tchin-Tchin." This led to another Broadway role two years later in "Absence of a Cello" before directing two Broadway plays. He also wrote several plays and won an Emmy in 1977 for writing a Paul Simon television special.

It is unclear when Grodin was diagnosed with cancer but his health had "recently deteriorated," according to TMZ. He was surrounded by family when he passed and is survived by his wife and two children.

What is bone marrow cancer?

This type of cancer occurs in the stem cells of bone marrow, the sponge-like tissue found in the center of most bones (via Healthline). These stem cells are crucial for our bodies to function because they develop into red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. White blood cells fight against infections, red blood cells transport oxygen around the body, and platelets assist in the formation of blood clots when necessary (via John Hopkins Medicine).

In a healthy body, these cells are created in the body when they are needed. Platelets, for example, are created when you cut yourself so that the cut will clot and stop your body from bleeding excessively. Bone marrow cancer is diagnosed when any of these cells begin to grow abnormally or faster than they are supposed to. The overproduction of one type of blood cell can crowd the other types and make it difficult for them to do their job. In some cases these extra cells can form tumors.

There are many different types of bone marrow cancer

According to Medical News Today, doctors differentiate types of bone marrow cancer by the cells that the cancer affects. The three most common types include multiple myeloma, leukemia, and lymphoma. Multiple myeloma affects plasma cells, which are white blood cells that make antibodies to fight bacteria and viruses. This type of bone marrow cancer creates too many plasma cells and causes the cancerous ones to remove healthy ones. The unneeded cells can form tumors and weaken your bones.

Leukemia refers to cancer that involves the white blood cells. There are several types of leukemia, each of which targets slightly different demographics. Every form of this disease works similarly by making abnormal white blood cells that don't die naturally like they are supposed to. These can affect how normal cells work.

Finally, lymphoma cancer often begins in the lymph nodes but can start in the bone marrow as well. In this type of cancer, abnormal cells in the lymphatic system grow out of control. They can form tumors and make it hard for your other cells, and as a result your immune system, to do its job.

The risk factors are unclear

Doctors are unsure what causes most types of bone marrow cancer. However, certain types are more common in specific demographics. The risk of developing multiple myeloma, for example, increases as you age (via WebMD). African-Americans are more likely to develop it than Caucasians and men are more likely to develop it than women. Other potential links include a family history of the disease, a history of other plasma cell diseases, and obesity. People who have worked in the oil industry are also at risk of developing multiple myeloma.

According to Healthline, exposure to atomic radiation and toxic chemicals has been linked to developing bone marrow cancer. Some other illnesses like HIV and hepatitis may also increase your risk, as well as some retroviruses and herpes. Previous rounds of chemotherapy or radiation therapy from other cancers have been associated with the development of bone marrow cancer as well. There are likely some genetic factors, but these are not necessarily hereditary and can occur in anyone.

All types of bone marrow cancer have similar symptoms

Each type of bone marrow cancer has an overlap of similar symptoms (via Medical News Today). These symptoms include fatigue, bone pain, unexplained weight loss, and frequent infections. Symptoms that are unique to multiple myeloma include bone fractures, an increase or decrease of urination, confusion, abnormal thirst, and nausea.

Someone with leukemia, in addition to the general symptoms above, may experience trouble breathing, fever, overheating or sweating at night, enlarged lymph nodes, a swollen spleen, loss of skin redness, frequent bruising, trouble clotting small wounds, and aches throughout their entire body. Someone with lymphoma will often experience similar symptoms as someone with leukemia, but they will likely also have additional symptoms. These can include frequent coughing, itchy or uncomfortable skin, loss of appetite, stomach pain, rashes, and excessive bloat.

If you or someone you know experiences any of these symptoms, visit a doctor right away. Most forms of cancer are treatable in the early stages and get more difficult to cure as the disease progresses. Frequent visits to your doctor can also provide opportunities to test for cancer.

Treatment is possible when caught early

The treatment plan of a bone marrow cancer patient will depend on the type of cancer, the severity of the disease, and many other factors (via Healthline). One of the main treatment options is chemotherapy, which uses drugs to kill cancer cells in your body. It can be performed by injection or with pills. Immunotherapy, also called biological therapy, is another treatment option. This therapy amplifies your immune system's response to the cancer cells so it is more equipped to kill the cells or slow their growth.

Radiation is another treatment that uses special x-rays to shrink tumors and kill specific cancer cells. Another option, targeted therapy drugs, attack only the cancerous cells in your body. This often has less severe side effects than chemotherapy, which kills both cancerous and healthy cells.

Severe cases of bone marrow cancer may require a bone marrow transplant. Also called a stem cell transplant, this treatment replaces damaged bone marrow with healthy material from a donor. This usually happens after chemotherapy or radiation. Donors can be difficult to find and not everyone is eligible as a candidate.