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Blood Cancer

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 Blood cancers, also know as hematologic malignancies, are cancers of the body's blood-forming and immune systems — the bone marrow and lymphatic tissues. Blood cancers include:
  • Leukemias
  • Lymphomas
  • Myelomas


As in all cancers, hematologic malignancies arise from cells that become abnormal and are produced in excessive amounts. The abnormal growth interferes with the body's production of healthy blood cells, thus making the body unable to protect itself against infections.

The hematology/oncology team at University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview, is internationally recognized for its innovative and comprehensive program of care. Many of the treatments now available to patients with hematologic malignancies were pioneered here at the University of Minnesota.

Lymphoma
Lymphoma is a term that applies to cancer that occurs within the body's lymphatic system, which is designed to produce cells that fight off infections and other diseases. Cancer of the lymphatic system (lymphoma) is classified based on its cell structure as either Hodgkin's or non-Hodgkin's, with the non-Hodgkin's variety being more common.

Non-Hodgkin's lymphomas are categorized according to their appearance under the microscope and the cell type — either B-cell or T-cell; most people have a B-cell lymphoma, with T-cell lymphomas occurring more frequently in adolescents and young adults.

Hodgkin's Disease
Hodgkin's disease, also known as Hodgkin's lymphoma, is a special form of lymphoma characterized by the presence of a particular cell known as the Reed Sternberg cell. This disease is distinct in its characteristics and treatment requirements from other lymphomas (which are called non-Hodgkin's lymphoma). The cause for Hodgkin's disease is unknown. The only way to diagnose it is to take a biopsy and examine the cells under a microscope.

Many patients with Hodgkin's disease can be cured. Radiation therapy and chemotherapy may be used alone or together to treat Hodgkin's disease. In general, disease that has not spread beyond the nodes and that is on one side of the diaphragm, with no symptoms such as weight loss or sweats, can be treated with radiotherapy. Disease that is found more widely or where there are symptoms is usually treated with chemotherapy. For some patients, bone marrow or stem cell transplantation may be the best approach. New treatments are also being explored to further increase the success rate of therapy and prevent long-term side effects.

Leukemia
Leukemia is a cancer of the bone marrow and blood. It is characterized by the uncontrolled growth of blood cells. About 30,000 new cases of leukemia in the United States are reported each year. Most cases occur in older adults, though leukemia is the most common type of childhood cancer.

Leukemia is either acute or chronic. In acute leukemia, the abnormal blood cells remain very immature and cannot carry out their normal functions. The number of these cells increases rapidly, and the disease gets worse quickly. In chronic leukemia, some abnormal cells are present, but in general, these cells are more mature and can carry out some of their normal functions. Also, the number of abnormal cells increases less rapidly than in acute leukemia. As a result, chronic leukemia gets worse gradually.

Myelodysplastic syndrome
Myelodysplastic syndromes are disorders in which the bone marrow produces ineffective and abnormal looking cells on one or more types (white blood cells, red blood cells or platelets). Normally, the bone marrow produces stem cells (immature cells) that develop into mature blood cells. In myelodysplastic syndromes, the stem cells do not mature into healthy red blood cells, white blood cells, or platelets. The immature blood cells, called blasts, do not function normally and either die in the bone marrow or soon after they enter the blood. This leaves less room for healthy white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets to develop in the bone marrow.

Multiple myeloma
Multiple myeloma is a cancer that starts within a particular type of white blood cell called a plasma cell. The job of the healthy plasma cell is to create antibodies that fight off germs and infections. When these plasma cells become abnormal, they cease to perform their usual function and begin to reproduce out of control. These myeloma cells start to crowd out the healthy cells and collect within the bone marrow, and eventually within the solid part of the bones. This disease is named multiple myeloma for its tendency to affect many bones.

For more information on blood cancer, visit University of Minnesota Physicians Cancer Care at Fairview

Doctors & Providers

Blood and Marrow Transplant

Hematology/Oncology

Oncology

Radiation Oncology

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Fairview features nearly 4,000 providers practicing at over 200 locations throughout the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area and beyond. Fairview Clinics, University of Minnesota Physicians and our independent partner clinics provide an exceptional care experience, while lowering the overall costs of health care.

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Our Providers Make the Difference
Fairview features nearly 4,000 providers practicing at over 200 locations throughout the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area and beyond. Fairview Clinics, University of Minnesota Physicians and our independent partner clinics provide an exceptional care experience, while lowering the overall costs of health care.