Finding out you have blood cancer can be overwhelming, but Mercy is here for you. Our highly experienced cancer specialists offer the expertise and support you need, from diagnosis through treatment and beyond.

What Is Blood Cancer?

Blood cancer (also called hematologic cancer) develops in cells that make up the blood, bone marrow and lymph system. It can affect the blood’s ability to deliver oxygen and nutrients, fight infection and form clots. 

Blood Cancer Types

Blood cancer can occur in any of the materials that produce and make up your blood. Stem cells in your bone marrow (the spongy tissue inside your bones) develop into three types of blood cells:

  • Red blood cells give your blood its color. More importantly, they carry oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body.
  • White blood cells help your body fight infections.
  • Platelets help your blood clot.

Plasma is the watery part of your blood that transports cells, nutrients, hormones and waste products.

Three main types of cancer that can affect your blood include:

Leukemia

Leukemia starts in the bone marrow (the spongy tissue inside bones where blood cells are made). It occurs when abnormal white blood cells grow out of control and crowd out the healthy cells your body needs to function.

Multiple Myeloma

Multiple myeloma (also called myeloma) begins in plasma cells, which create antibodies to help the body fight infection. Damaged plasma cells grow out of control, producing abnormal antibodies that can cause organ damage and other problems.

Lymphoma

Lymphoma begins in the white blood cells of the lymph system (also called the lymphatic system), which is part of the body’s immune system. A type of white blood cell called a lymphocyte changes and grows out of control, forming tumors in lymph tissue throughout the body.

Blood Cancer Diagnosis & Treatment at Mercy

Several tools and tests are used to diagnose blood cancers, including: 

  • Physical exams to check for signs like swollen lymph nodes
  • Blood tests, such as a complete blood count
  • Bone marrow tests to collect and test marrow or bone
  • Imaging tests like CT and MRI scans
  • Lumbar puncture (spinal tap) to collect and test spinal fluid

Based on these results, a personalized treatment plan is developed for the type of blood cancer you have and whether it’s slow-growing or aggressive. Treatments may include:

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is medication that destroys cancer cells to prevent them from growing and spreading. It may be given alone or with other treatments like radiation therapy.

Targeted Therapy

Targeted therapy identifies and attacks specific molecules (molecular targets) on cancer cells that help them grow and multiply.

Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy helps the immune system attack cancer cells by boosting immunity or changing how it functions.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy uses high doses of radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing. External beam radiation therapy uses machines outside the body that aim high-energy x-rays (or beams) at lymphoma cells.

Oncology Surgery

Surgery may be used under special circumstances, but primarily to obtain a tissue sample (such as of the lymph nodes) for testing.

If your Mercy hematologist or specialist feels a stem cell transplant (otherwise known as a bone marrow transplant) is right for you, you’ll be referred to an appropriate transplant center.

Mercy’s cancer specialists are at the leading edge of treating blood cancers. We’ve helped thousands of people like you understand your condition—and overcome it.

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