Because a cancer diagnosis can be one of the most emotional times in a patient’s life, many patients are often overwhelmed as they initially gather information regarding their cancer. In regards to blood cancers and the use of hematology to treat those cancers, we hope the following information is helpful to our patients and their families.
What is Hematology? And How Does it Apply to Cancer Treatment or Oncology?
Hematology is the study of blood, blood forming organs and blood disorders. Physicians who specialize in hematology are known as hematologists.
Hematologists are involved in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of blood diseases and various cancers. While physicians trained in hematology and oncology do not generally treat operable cancers, like prostate cancer, they do specialize in treating blood cancers like Hodgkin Lymphoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas, leukemia and multiple myelomas. These doctors may also specialize in the management of solid tumors.
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While these two medical specialties are separate, they commonly overlap. Physicians in oncology and hematology frequently work together to provide integrated care, such as for bone marrow transplants, which are blood related but may be used to treat some cancers. There are also some blood tests that are used to identify particular forms of cancer.
What Exactly Are Blood Cancers?
Blood cancers affect the production of blood cells. These types of cancers begin in the patient’s bone marrow where the blood is produced. Stem cells in the bone marrow mature and develop into three types of blood cells: White blood cells, red blood cells or platelets, which are the smallest type of blood cell.
With most types of blood cancers, the normal blood cell development process is halted by the uncontrolled growth of abnormal blood cells, which are generally cancerous. These cells prevent the patient’s blood form performing many of its necessary duties, such as fighting off infections or preventing serious bleeding.
What Are the Types of Blood Cancers?
There are three forms of blood cancer that are most commonly diagnosed.
Multiple Myeloma occurs when the cancer cells target the patient’s plasma cells, those white cells which produce infection fighting anti-bodies. This results in weakening the patient’s immune system and makes them more susceptible to infection.
Lymphoma is a blood cancer targets the patient’s lymphatic system, which helps remove excess fluids from the patient’s body and also helps produce immune cells. Lymphocytes are a type of white blood cell that fight infection. Abnormal lymphocytes become lymphoma cells, which multiply and collect in the patient’s lymph nodes and other tissues. Eventually, over time, these cancerous cells damage the patient’s immune system.
* What are lymph nodes? A lymph node or lymph gland is an oval shaped organ in the immune system. They are located throughout the body, including the armpit and stomach. Lymph nodes work to clear any foreign articles. They are vital to maintaining a healthy immune system.
The rapid production of abnormal white blood cells creates this blood cancer, which is found in the blood and in bone marrow. When the high number of blood cells are unable to fight infection, they hinder the ability of the bone marrow to produce red blood cells and platelets.
The Oncology Associates Team
At Oncology Associates we provide our patients in Omaha, as well as throughout Nebraska, a team of board certified hematologists and oncologists, physicians assistants, registered nurses and pharmacist to develop a personalized cancer treatment plan for each patient.