Hematology and Its Role in Blood Cancers

Hematology and Its Role in Blood Cancers

Most forms of blood cancer begin in the bone marrow where blood cells are made. The cells begin as stem cells and develop into red or white blood cells or platelets. The cancerous blood cells (abnormal cells) inhibit the blood’s ability to fight infections or control bleeding. Browse Cancer Center of Kansas for more information.

There are three primary types of blood cancer: leukemia, lymphoma (Hodgkins and Non-Hodgkins), and myeloma. Hematologists are doctors specializing Hematology (the study of blood diseases and cancer) and work with oncologists in treating blood cancers.

  • Leukemia. This form of blood cancer is the result of white blood cells reproducing abnormally and rapidly. White blood cells are tasked with fighting infection and it is typical to see an increase in the white blood cell count when fighting an infection. However, this is something quite different and, because of the increase in abnormal white cells, that ability is impaired significantly. Often, leukemia is detected incidentally through normal blood or Hematology tests during a yearly exam.
  • Lymphoma. This form of blood cancer impacts the lymphatic system, which is responsible for eliminating excess body fluids and producing immune cells. Lymphocytes are white blood cells that fight infections and, when they become abnormal or cancerous, they tend to deposit in the body’s lymph nodes. In time, the body’s immune system is impaired, leaving one vulnerable to other diseases. There are two types of lymphatic blood cancer: Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma or NHL.
  • Hodgkin Lymphoma. Differs from non-Hodgkin lymphoma in that it has an abnormal lymphocyte called a B lymphocyte or the Reed-Sternberg cell. Fortunately, this form is one of the most curable forms of cancer.
  • Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. This form has several sub-forms, which can vary in their progression, either very slow-growing or very fast-growing.
  • Myeloma. This form affects the plasma cells which are responsible for producing antibodies to fight infection and disease. Abnormal myeloma cells interrupt the antibody production cycle, leaving the patient vulnerable to infection.

Common symptoms of blood cancer include fever, chills, weakness and fatigue that does not subside with rest, nausea and loss of appetite, night sweats, bone or joint pain, dyspnea, headaches, and swollen lymph nodes. Treatment depends on many factors and may include chemotherapy and radiation or stem cell transplant. Fortunately, many patients with leukemia can live many years with treatment. Hematologists are doctors specializing Hematology (the study of blood diseases and cancer).

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