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Hematology care

Hematology is a field of medicine for patients with blood disorders, such as leukemia or multiple myeloma.

If you have been diagnosed with a blood disorder, like leukemia or multiple myeloma, our hematology team is here to help you manage symptoms and find the best treatment options for your life.

The team includes medical oncologists, infectious disease physicians, radiation oncologists, pathologists, nurse coordinators and nurses who specialize in oncology. They come together to share their expertise, continuously improve the care they provide and ensure that you are receiving treatment that is individualized to your specific needs. 

You also have access to leading-edge research protocols through the Virginia Piper Cancer Institute Research Program, which is led by Michaela Tsai, MD. This program includes a partnership with Harvard Medical School through the Dana Farber Blood Cancer Research Partnership.

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What it is

Hematology is the study of blood in health and disease. It includes problems with the red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, blood vessels, bone marrow, lymph nodes, spleen, and the proteins involved in bleeding and clotting (hemostasis and thrombosis). A hematologist is a medical doctor who applies this specialized knowledge to treat patients with blood conditions.

People may be affected by many different types of blood conditions and blood cancers. Common blood disorders include anemia, bleeding disorders such as hemophilia, blood clots and blood cancers such as leukemia, lymphoma and multiple myeloma.

In most blood cancers, the normal blood cell development process is interrupted by uncontrolled growth of an abnormal type of blood cell. These abnormal blood cells, or cancerous cells, prevent blood from performing many of its functions, like fighting off infections or preventing serious bleeding.

Leukemia

Leukemia is a type of blood cancer that begins in the bone marrow. Bone marrow is the soft tissue in the center of the bones, where blood cells are produced. In healthy bone marrow, blood cells form and mature, then move into the bloodstream.

Types of leukemia are grouped by the type of cell affected and by the rate of cell growth. Leukemia can be either acute or chronic.

Acute leukemia involves an overgrowth of very immature blood cells. This condition is life threatening because there are not enough mature blood cells to prevent anemia, infection and bleeding.

Chronic leukemia involves an overgrowth of mature blood cells. Usually, people with chronic leukemia have enough mature blood cells to prevent serious bleeding and infection.

Leukemia Symptoms

  • unexplained fever
  • persistent fatigue or feeling of weakness
  • unintentional weight loss, loss of appetite
  • easy bruising or bleeding, unexplained nose bleeds
  • shortness of breath
  • petechiae (tiny red spots under the skin caused by bleeding)
  • swollen lymph glands
  • anemia (low red blood cell counts)
  • night sweats
  • bone or joint pain
  • recurring infections

Multiple myeloma

Multiple myeloma is an uncommon blood cancer that affects the bone marrow, the body's blood-forming system, and can lead to kidney problems. 

Causes and risks of multiple myeloma:

  • Those over the age of 65 are at a high risk.
  • Men are slightly more likely to develop multiple myeloma.
  • African-Americans are twice as likely as white Americans to develop multiple myeloma.
  • Radiation exposure can increase your risk.
  • Family history: If a parent, brother or sister has the disease, your risk is four times higher.  
  • Obesity
  • Other plasma cell diseases: If you have had one of the following you are at higher risk:
    • A precancerous condition called monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS)
    • A single tumor of plasma cells (solitary plasmacytoma)

Multiple myeloma symptoms:

  • fractures
  • bone pain
  • fatigue
  • shortness of breath
  • confusion
  • appetite changes
  • infection

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Diagnosis

To look for a blood disorder, your doctor may order:

Diagnosis of leukemia is based on the results of blood and bone marrow tests, including bone marrow aspiration and bone marrow biopsy. Some cases of leukemia are hereditary. Genetic counseling may be right for you.

Multiple myeloma diagnosis involves blood and urine tests, including:

  • ​serum protein electrophoresis
  • 24-hour urine
  • immunofixation (IFE test)

 

Treatment

You may receive one are more these treatments:

Good to know

The connection between hematology and oncology is that both fields overlap due to the presence of cancers of the blood. Hematology is the study of blood and its diseases while oncology is the study of cancer.

Patients who are diagnosed with blood cancer can consult either a hematologist or oncologist for their treatment. Hematologists are doctors who study about blood and the tissues that form blood. They can give treatment for various blood disorders after performing different laboratory tests.

Related links

Source: Allina Health Cancer Care
Reviewed by: Allina Health Cancer Care

First published: 6/6/2019
Last reviewed: 6/6/2019

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