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Hematologic oncology

The information on this page was reviewed and approved by
Maurie Markman, MD, President, Medicine & Science at CTCA.

This page was updated on September 21, 2021.

What is hematologic oncology?

Hematologic oncology combines two fields of medicine: hematology, which is the study of the blood, and oncology, the study of cancer.

Hematologic oncologists are trained in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of blood cancers and blood-related disorders. The hematologic oncologists at Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) have access to a wide range of diagnostic tools, such as imaging and laboratory tests, and provide sophisticated medical therapies for patients with cancerous hematologic diseases, including:

Hematologic malignancies differ from other types of cancer because they develop in the body's blood cells and may not form tumors. While some hematologic oncologists have expertise in treating solid tumors, most do not treat operable cancers such as breast cancer or lung cancer.

Stem cell transplantation, a treatment option for some blood cancers, is performed at CTCA® by hematology/oncology physicians. Stem cell transplantation is also called hematopoietic progenitor cell transplantation.

Why would you see a hematologic oncologist?

You may be referred to a hematologic oncologist because of some abnormality that shows up in a blood test you had done. The blood is made up of white blood cells that fight infection, red blood cells that carry oxygen from the lungs to the heart and other organs, platelets that clot blood and prevent uncontrolled bleeding, and plasma that carries waste products to the kidneys and liver.

A blood test may show the presence of too many or too few of any of these blood components, which a hematologic oncologist would then investigate for signs of blood cancer or other blood disorders. Multiple myeloma, for instance, may occur in the plasma in bone marrow, while Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma develop in lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell.

How do hematologic oncologists treat blood cancers?

Treatment for blood cancer depends on many factors, including the type of cancer you have, how old you are, how fast your cancer is progressing and where the cancer has spread.

Blood cancer patients at CTCA are treated by a multidisciplinary care team working to eliminate the hematologic malignancies, reduce the possibility of a relapse and offer supportive patient care to keep them strong, reduce their side effects and maintain their quality of life.

Working with the rest of the cancer care team, your hematologic oncologist will develop a comprehensive treatment plan that include:

To help reduce or prevent the side effects of your treatment and speed your recovery , your CTCA cancer care team may recommend a range of supportive care services, such as nutritional and/or naturopathic support, pain management, psychosocial counseling and physical therapy.

What are the procedures for stem cell transplants?

Advances in stem cell research have led to fewer complications and stronger benefits for patients. Healthy stem cells are collected from bone marrow, circulating (peripheral) blood or umbilical cord blood. These blood-forming stem cells are then infused intravenously into the body to replace diseased or damaged bone marrow. The type of stem cell transplantation is based on where the healthy stem cells are harvested:

  • Autologous stem cell transplant uses the stem cells collected from the patient’s own body.
  • Allogeneic stem cell transplant uses stem cells collected from a matching donor.

The goal of transplantation is to stimulate new bone marrow growth, suppress the disease and reduce the possibility of relapse.

Patients will undergo a conditioning regimen prior to transplantation. This regimen will try to kill as many cancer cells as possible, often through high doses of chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

Following transplantation, your doctors will continue to monitor your blood counts over several months, and they may prescribe transfusions of red blood cells and platelets as needed.

To reduce the risk of complications and side effects, the stem cell transplant teams at CTCA hospitals, located across the United States, will work with you to address your needs throughout the stem cell transplant process.

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