Hematologists are healthcare providers who specialize in diagnosing, treating and managing diseases that affect your blood, bone marrow and lymphatic system. Blood diseases may be benign (noncancerous) disorders or malignant (cancerous). Blood disorders and blood cancer may have mild symptoms or be life-threatening.
According to the American College of Physicians, a hematologist is a healthcare provider who specializes in diseases that affect your blood, bone marrow and lymphatic system. Hematology is a sub-specialty of internal medicine.
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Hematologists diagnose, treat and manage a wide range of diseases that affect your blood cells. Blood diseases may be benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Some diseases keep your blood from flowing (blood clots). Other diseases make you bleed more than normal. Blood disorders and blood cancer may have mild symptoms or be life-threatening.
No, but a hematologist may also be an oncologist. Oncologists diagnose and treat all kinds of cancer. Hematologists focus on problems with your blood and parts of your body that help produce blood. That said, there’s a natural overlap between hematology and oncology, as many types of cancer start in blood cells in your bone marrow and lymphatic system.
No, seeing a hematologist doesn’t mean you have cancer. Hematologists treat all kinds of blood diseases. You may see a hematologist if your primary care provider recommends you see a specialist because your blood tests show abnormal blood cell count or coagulation levels.
You may need to see a hematologist because your primary healthcare provider wants a blood specialist to review your blood test results. It’s important to remember that initial blood test results aren’t signs of serious illness.
We rely on our blood for many things. Red blood cells give our body energy by carrying oxygen to tissues throughout our bodies. White blood cells help our immune system fight infection. Platelets are blood cells that help slow and stop bleeding. Plasma is a liquid that holds your blood cells together.
If you have a blood disease, it means one or more parts of your blood aren’t working as they should. Some blood diseases (disorders) are benign, meaning they aren’t cancer but they’re still serious illnesses.
A benign blood disease or blood disorder affects your blood but isn’t cancer. Here are some examples:
There are many different blood cancer types. According to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, the three most common blood cancers are:
Each blood cancer has many different sub-types.
All healthcare providers must complete four years in medical school to obtain a medical degree. Healthcare providers who are hematologists have completed the following requirements:
Healthcare providers may specialize in different kinds of hematology, including:
Once they’ve completed their fellowship training, providers are eligible to obtain board certification from the American Board of Internal Medicine. (The American Board of Pediatrics certifies providers who specialize in pediatric hematology.) All providers must pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination and be licensed by the state in which they’ll practice.
If you have an appointment with a hematologist, it’s because your blood tests show there’s something going on with your blood cells. Your hematologist may have recommended follow-up tests for more information about your blood. At your appointment, your hematologist will:
Your blood consists of many parts. Healthcare providers may order tests that evaluate your blood as whole or different parts of your blood. Here are some common tests a hematologist may order to diagnose a blood disorder or blood cancer:
Blood tests for cancer are one of many tools healthcare providers use to diagnose and manage cancer. A hematologist may use blood tests to:
If you have blood cancer, you may have additional blood tests. Your hematologist may use these test results to:
You’re probably seeing your hematologist because you had blood tests that show something is happening in your blood. Here are a few questions to consider:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
If you’re seeing a hematologist, it’s because tests show your blood cells, bone marrow or lymphatic system may not be working as well as it should. You may feel apprehensive about seeing a healthcare provider who specializes in blood diseases, including blood cancer. If you have questions about your test results, ask your hematologist to review your results and what they’ll do to determine what caused the results. They’ll be happy to answer your questions and explain next steps.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 07/19/2022.
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