Hematologic oncologist

This page was reviewed under our medical and editorial policy by

Maurie Markman, MD, President, Medicine & Science

This page was updated on February 8, 2024.

According to a 2017 survey by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), more than 2,200 hematology/oncology practices were providing care to adult patients in the United States. While the number of hematology/oncology practices declined from 2013 to 2017, the size of the practices that remained increased. Distribution was often aligned with cancer burden in certain U.S. regions. For instance, the South showed a high number of practices and a higher cancer burden compared to other regions.

The survey also found that more than two-thirds of the oncology practices employed only oncologists in hematology or medical oncology. The remaining third were multispeciality, meaning they employed gynecologic oncologists, radiation oncologists and surgical oncologists as well.

Overall, most oncology practices are small and employ between one and five oncologists.

This overview will cover the basic facts about hematologic oncologists, including:

What is a hematologic oncologist?

This specialty combines the practice of hematology (the study of blood) and oncology (the study of cancer), meaning that hematologic oncologists are experts in treating adults and children with blood cancers. Blood cancers aren’t common diseases, and many patients diagnosed with blood cancers choose to be treated by a hematologic oncologist because they’re expertly trained to focus on their disease. Doctors who aren’t experts in blood cancers may treat patients with blood cancers, but they often work in consultation with hematologic oncologists.

Are all hematologists also oncologists? No, hematologists may study just hematology and focus on blood conditions, or they may study hematology and oncology if they choose to focus their expertise on blood cancers.

Learn more about hematology oncology

What training do hematologic oncologists receive?

As physicians, hematologic oncologists are required to earn a bachelor’s degree and a medical degree, which requires four years of medical school. Hematologic oncologists then pursue clinical training in either hematology or medical oncology or a program that combines hematology and oncology. Most of these residency programs take three years, although year three for research is optional. Some hematologic oncologists seek additional training by completing fellowships lasting one to three years.

Dr. Tulio Rodriguez

City of Hope is one of the top institutions in the field of hematologic oncology. It set the blueprint that other hospitals follow. As soon as the chance to be a part of this group came along, I jumped at the opportunity.

Why would a patient see a hematologic oncologist?

If blood cancer is suspected or has been diagnosed, the patient may want to consult a hematologic oncologist to determine a course of treatment for the disease.

Hematological oncologists treat different blood cancers, including:

A hematologic oncologist:

  • Helps with the diagnosis
  • Explains the cancer diagnosis and the type and stage of blood cancer
  • Delivers care for blood cancer
  • Helps manage symptoms and side effects of the disease and its treatment

Questions to ask the hematologic oncologist

Patients may talk openly with a hematologic oncologist about blood cancer and their treatment plan. Here are some questions to consider asking:

  • Which tests are needed to help decide the treatment?
  • What experience does the physician have in treating this type of blood cancer?
  • Which treatment is recommended? Why?
  • Should a stem cell transplant be considered? If so, when?
  • Is a second opinion needed before starting treatment?
  • When should treatment start?
  • What should I do to get ready for treatment?
  • How will treatment affect daily life?
  • What is my prognosis?
  • How will it be determined whether the treatment is working?
  • Should I follow a special diet?
  • What are the options if this treatment doesn't work?
  • Where can I get more information about this treatment?
  • Where can I find support, and what type of support will I need?
  • Which other health care providers will be involved in my care?

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