Hematology – Cancer Treatment

Introduction – Hematology

Hematology is the field of medicine which involves the study of the blood. Blood is composed of various components such as particles, proteins, and fluids that are produced in the lymphatic organs and bone marrow. Hematologist is not a primary health care provider. Patients are normally under a hematologist’s care via referral from a physician, specialist or hospital. A hematologist is called for when symptoms or tests indicate anemia, blood clotting disease, blood count irregularities, or platelet problems. To diagnose these conditions, the hematologists perform intense analysis of the blood, blood cells, and bone marrow cells.

Hematology is often combined with other disciplines of medicine to diagnose and treat diseases where the blood is involved. Hemato-pathologists are doctors who specialize in diseases of the blood but also of the organs and tissues that are concerned to blood cells. Such organs include lymph nodes, spleen, thymus, and lymphoid tissue. They are often experts in diagnostics where multiple systems are involved.

Hematology is often combined with other disciplines of medicine to diagnose and treat diseases where the blood is involved.
Hematology and oncology overlap considerably in cancer treatment. Hematology-oncology doctors prescribe and perform transplants of stem cells as well as bone marrow, chemotherapy, and plasmapheresis. These therapies are used to treat variety of diseases such as lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, multiple myeloma, and immunity related diseases. Hematologists work in pathology laboratories, blood banks, hospitals, cancer treatment centers, and medical offices.

Hematology is classified into four major groups:

  1. Hemoglobinopathy–this group studies the abnormalities in the globin chains of the hemoglobin molecule. Diseases which come under the class of hemoglobinopathies includes thalassemia (or erythropoiesis), sickle-cell anemia, and their subtypes. These diseases are more common in the ethnic African population.
  2. Hematological malignancies –this group involves the diagnosis and treatment of cancers affecting bone marrow, blood, and lymph nodes. Leukemia, lymphomas, and myeloma are examples of this category.
  3. Anemia – Involves the loss of hemoglobin from the blood leading to low organ oxygenation.
  4. Coagulopathy – Deals with diseases that include improper blood clotting and excessive bleeding.

The primary diagnostic tool in hematology is blood testing. Tests performed by hematologists to diagnose illnesses include:

  1. Blood count (CBC) –this is helpful in diagnosing anemia and certain blood cancers. A CBC also helps to monitor infection, blood loss and general health of the patient.
  2. Platelet count –this is useful in diagnosing and monitoring the bleeding and clotting diseases.
  3. Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) –this test measures the rate at which red blood cells fall to help diagnose sickle cell anemia, polycythemia, and congestive heart failure.
  4. Prothrombin time (PT) –utilized for evaluating bleeding and clotting diseases and can help to monitor anti-clotting therapies.
  5. Bone marrow biopsies –this is a specialized test for evaluating abnormal red or white blood cell counts found in cancerous diseases (leukemia or Hodgkin’s disease) or anemia.
  6. Antiglobulin/Coombs assay–this test measures for antibodies that destroy red blood cells. This may happen in cases of anemia, jaundice, syphilis, lympho-proliferative disorder, or blood transfusion reactions.
  7. Diascopy – A simple test to see how skin blanches under pressure to diagnose various conditions.
  8. Osmotic fragility test – to test the capacity of red blood cells to withstand changes in the concentration of blood. This is done in cases of sickle cell anemia.

Various conditions treated, factors involved or procedures performed in hematology include:

  1. Blood
  • Venous blood
  • Venipuncture
  • Hematopoiesis
  • Blood tests
  • Cord blood
  1. Blood cells
  • Erythropoiesis
  • Erythropoietin
  • Iron metabolism
  • Hemoglobin
  • Glycolysis
  • Pentose phosphate pathway
  • White blood cells
  • Platelets
  1. Reticuloendothelial system
  • Bone marrow
  • Spleen
  • Liver
  • Lymphatic system
  1. Blood transfusion
  • Blood plasma
  • Blood bank
  • Blood donors
  • Blood groups
  1. Hemostasis
  • Coagulation
  • Vitamin K
  • Complement system
  1. Immunoglobulins
  2. Anemias (lack of red blood cells or hemoglobin)
  3. Hematological malignancies
  4. Coagulopathies (disorders of bleeding and coagulation)
  5. Hereditary conditions of blood such as aplastic anemia. 

Treatments in hematology include various modalities such as:

  1. Diet modification
  2. Oral medications – tablets or liquid medicines
  3. Anticoagulation therapy
  4. Intramuscular injections of iron and vitamins such as B12)
  5. Blood transfusion (for anemia)
  6. Venesection(also known as therepeutic phlebotomy) – this is performed for iron overload or polycythemia
  7. Bone marrow transplant for aplastic anemia and leukemia)
  8. All kinds of anti-cancer chemotherapy
  9. Radiotherapy for cancer

- Link of interest: Twitter Hematology  – Cancer Treatment.

 

This article is not medical advice nor a substitute to professional health advice. Always consult a doctor.

 

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