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Blood cancer

Blood cancer occurs when stem cells in bone marrow make uncontrolled, abnormal blood cells. They keep your blood from fighting infections and slows excessive bleeding control. We have many treatments, such as chemo, radiation therapy and stem cell transplants.

Hematology oncology

A blood cancer diagnosis is distressing. We are here to provide help and support.

At Mission Health, our hospitals are committed to your recovery and well-being. Our experienced hematologist oncologists provide you with high-quality, compassionate care. A personalized plan is tailored to you to provide the treatment you need.

Symptoms of blood cancer

Symptoms of blood cancer vary by type. Sometimes symptoms may not be present, or they may be nonspecific, and they include:

  • Anemia
  • Bone and joint pain
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Night sweats
  • Swollen liver
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Swollen spleen
  • Weakness
  • Weight loss

Our blood cancer program

Our blood cancer care team includes a diverse group of specialists, alongside hematologist-oncologists. They work together to provide time-tested treatments and advanced medical techniques.

Leukemia diagnostics

Our blood cancer doctors, also known as hematologist oncologists, use proven diagnostic methods to determine whether you have any type of blood cancer. To test for leukemia, your doctor will obtain a complete blood count (CBC) test. This test can identify abnormal levels of white blood cells relative to red blood cells and platelets, which will indicate the presence of cancer.

Lymphoma diagnostics

To be tested for lymphoma, we perform a biopsy, which removes a small portion of tissue to be examined under a microscope. In some cases, your doctor may also order an X-ray, computerized tomography (CT) scan or positron emission tomography (PET) scan to detect swollen lymph nodes.

Multiple myeloma diagnostics

To be tested for multiple myeloma, your doctor will order a CBC, or other blood or urine tests. These will detect chemicals or proteins produced if you have multiple myeloma. In some cases, bone marrow biopsy, X-ray, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), PET and CT scans can be used to confirm the presence and extent of the spread of multiple myeloma.

Blood cancer treatment

Treatment will depend on the type of blood cancer you have, your age, how fast the cancer is progressing and whether the cancer has spread to other parts of your body. Blood cancer treatments have vastly improved over the last several decades, and many cancers are now much more healable through a variety of advanced therapies.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses drugs to destroy cancer cells. It is often used in combination with radiation therapy, and is the most common treatment for leukemia. Our medical oncologists and hematologists are experts in blood-related processes, treatments and research options, and use chemotherapy strategically throughout the cancer treatment journey.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy uses X-rays to destroy cancer cells. Our therapists specialize in distinct types of tumors, so they offer the latest radiation therapy technologies, including focused ultrasound. We coordinate care with your medical oncologist and primary care physician to ensure precise and accurate treatment.

Stem cell transplantation

Stem cell transplantation is the replacement of damaged bone marrow cells with healthy cells (stem cells). Stem cells are immature cells produced in the bone marrow that make more stem cells, red blood cells and platelets.

Targeted therapy

Targeted therapy is a treatment that uses drugs to attack specific targets or processes of cancer cells. It may be used alone, but is most often combined with other cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy. Targeted therapy only directly affects cancer cells, as opposed to other surrounding cells, and blocks cell signals to stop them from growing or spreading.

Support and survivorship services

We understand the emotional impact of a cancer diagnosis, and offer comprehensive support services to ensure the educational, nutritional and emotional needs of you and your family are met. Additionally, we offer a specialized leukemia support group for you during and after treatment, as well as your caregivers, in order to provide support, discussion and community.

What is blood cancer?

In most blood cancers, uncontrolled growth of abnormal blood cells, or cancerous cells, interrupts regular blood cell growth. These cancerous cells prevent your blood from engaging in normal function, such as fighting off infections or preventing serious bleeding. Blood plays a critical role in daily function, supplying all of your organs with oxygen, nutrients, hormones and antibodies. Cancerous cells interrupt these important processes.

While there are over 100 varieties of blood cancers, there are several types more common than others, which are what we typically treat.

Leukemia

Leukemia is a blood cancer that generally starts in bone marrow, the soft tissue inside the bones where blood cells are made. When you have leukemia, your bone marrow creates abnormal white blood cells, called leukemia cells. These cells don’t work like normal white blood cells, growing faster than normal cells and not stopping that growth when they should. Over time, they can crowd out normal blood cells, which may lead to serious problems, including anemia, bleeding and infections. They can also spread to lymph nodes or organs and cause swelling or pain.

There are four main types of leukemia, including:

  • Acute lymphoblastic leukemia
  • Acute myelogenous leukemia
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia
  • Chronic myelogenous leukemia

Lymphoma

Lymphoma affects the lymphatic system, which produces immune cells and removes excess fluids from your body. In healthy blood, lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell, work to fight infection. Abnormal lymphocytes become lymphoma cells, which multiply and collect in your lymph nodes and other tissues. Over time, these cancerous cells impair your immune system and turn into lymphoma. There are two types of lymphomas: Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Hodgkin’s lymphoma is the most common form of blood cancer in adults, accounting for over half of all diagnosed blood cancer cases.

Multiple myeloma

Multiple myeloma is a cancer of the plasma cells. Plasma cells are white blood cells that produce disease- and infection-fighting antibodies in your body. Multiple myeloma cells prevent the normal production of antibodies, leaving your body's immune system weakened and susceptible to infection.

Blood cancer care team

Our cancer program brings together a multidisciplinary team of specialists, including physicians from our hematology department. These experienced professionals provide comprehensive diagnosis, treatment and management of acute and chronic leukemia, lymphoma, multiple myeloma and other blood cancers.

Our team of specialists includes:

  • Diagnostic radiologists
  • Genetic counselors
  • Hematologists
  • Medical oncologists
  • Palliative care providers
  • Pathologists
  • Radiation oncologists

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