Hematology oncology is the study of cancers that affect the blood. This area of study includes research, diagnosis, treatment, and patient education.
Hematology Oncologists are physicians that specialize in this field and are responsible for all aspects of patient care and overseeing treatment. (browse the directory to find a local oncologist)
Hematologists can deal with malignant or non-malignant disorders. Examples of malignant disorders include acute leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma. Non-malignant disorders include issues with bleeding and clotting, thrombocytopenia, and anemia.
Doctors in the hematology oncology field may be certified in hematology, oncology, or both.
There are three types of blood cells – white blood cells, red blood cells and plasma. These blood cells are formed in bone marrow.
The three main types of blood cancers are leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma;
Leukemia occurs when white blood cells begin to reproduce at an elevated rate. Eventually these cells push out healthy cells and begin to cause problems. Leukemia can be either acute or chronic, depending on how quickly it gets worse.
Lymphoma occurs when white blood cells begin to act in abnormal ways. White blood cells normally help the body’s immune system, but in patients with lymphoma they begin to stop functioning properly. Often lymphoma involves the formation of tumors. These can occur anywhere in the body and are often seen in the lymph nodes or in bone marrow. The tumor cells grow and invade the surrounding tissues, robbing them of what they need.
Myeloma is an ailment that targets plasma cells, leaving the body’s immune system weak and vulnerable.
Hematology oncologists work with a team of medical professionals to accurately diagnose patients and determine the best treatment plan. This team can include other specialists (radiation oncologists, surgeons), nurses, pain control specialists, and social workers. Medical treatment for blood cancers usually involves chemotherapy and blood marrow transfusions.
Depending on the exact type of cancer, its location, the health of the patient, and their medical history, hematology oncologists may opt for any number of treatment options. These can include everything from watchful waiting to a combination of treatments that include stem cell transplants. While there is no cure for blood cancers, they can be effectively treated and the patient can go into remission. Patients in remission no longer have symptoms, but should always have frequent follow-up visits.
Hematology oncology is a constantly changing field. There are cancer clinical trials and research being conducted to find new and improved methods for diagnosing and treating cancers of the blood.