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Hematologic Malignancies - Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

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Cancers that arise in blood-forming tissue are known as hematologic malignancies. Read on to know more.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Rajesh Gulati

Published At November 18, 2022
Reviewed AtMay 29, 2023

What Are Hematologic Malignancies?

Many different types of mature blood cells, such as red blood cells, are present for delivering oxygen, white blood cells for immunological defense, and platelets for wound clotting, which are produced in the bone marrow by hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells. Cancers that arise in these cells are known as hematologic malignancies. Hematologic malignancies are tumors that arise in blood-forming tissue, such as bone marrow, or in immune system cells. Hematologic cancers are classified into three types: leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma.

  1. Lymphoma- It is a cancer that begins in the lymphatic system, which is an essential aspect of the immune system. It includes white blood cells such as T lymphocytes and B lymphocytes. Acute lymphoblastic leukemia, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, lymphomas, and multiple myeloma are a few examples.

  2. Multiple Myeloma- It is a malignancy that originates in the bone marrow and damages plasma cells. It is a myeloid lineage cancer that comprises progenitor cells to red blood cells, platelets, and white blood cells such as granulocytes. Acute myelogenous leukemia, chronic myelogenous leukemia, myelodysplastic syndromes, and myeloproliferative neoplasms, including essential thrombocythemia, polycythemia vera, and myelofibrosis, are examples.

  3. Leukemia- It is a kind of cancer that begins in the bone marrow or blood. It refers to an overflow of white blood cells in the body.

What Are the Causes of Hematologic Malignancies?

Many factors can contribute to hematologic malignancies. Some of them are as follows:

  • Abnormalities in the chromosomes.

  • Due to hereditary factors.

  • High-dose radiation exposure.

  • Smoking.

  • Aging.

  • Cancer therapy history.

  • Industrial chemical exposure, such as benzene.

  • Immunodeficiency.

  • Viruses that are reoccurring.

  • Ionizing radiation.

  • Bone marrow dysfunctions.

  • Drugs.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Hematologic Malignancies?

The symptoms of hematologic malignancies range based on the kind and from individual to individual. Symptoms could include:

  • Lymph nodes that are swollen.

  • Joint or bone discomfort.

  • Infections that reoccur.

  • Simple bruising or bleeding.

  • Sweating excessively, especially at night.

  • Weakness or fatigue.

  • High fever and chills.

  • Difficulty in sleeping peacefully.

  • Mouth dryness.

  • Breathing difficulties.

  • Feeling bloated.

  • Hair loss that is severe.

  • Extremities that are swollen.

  • A decline in sexual interest or a decrease in libido.

  • Urinary discomfort.

  • Loss of weight for no apparent reason.

  • Numbness or loss of sensation in the feet and hands.

  • Appetite loss and sickness.

Aside from these bodily symptoms, the patient also experiences psychological suffering, such as anxiousness, irritability, depression, and worry.

How Are Hematologic Malignancies Diagnosed?

The most successful therapies need an accurate identification of the precise kind of hematologic malignancies. Among the possible tests are:

  • Blood Tests- It is used to count blood cells or identify proteins or compounds in the blood that suggest hematological malignancy. A complete blood count (CBC) determines the number of white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets in the blood. Blood tests evaluate the concentrations of important chemicals in the blood. In some circumstances, physicians may want to evaluate the calcium level in the blood.

  • Biopsies- These are performed to examine a tiny sample of tissue for malignant cells. Certain forms of hematological malignancies can be diagnosed by testing the bone marrow, in which blood cells are generated. A bone marrow aspiration is a technique that physicians perform to extract a tiny sample of bone marrow, blood, and bone, mostly from a hip bone or a breastbone. After that, the sample is then sent to a lab for examination of abnormal cells or alterations in genetic material.

  • Imaging Tests- Tests such as computed tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET) scan, X-ray, and ultrasound are used to determine whether cancer has spread and to detect infections or other issues.

What Are the Treatments For Hematologic Malignancies?

Treatment for hematological malignancies is determined by the type of cancer, the age, the rate at which the disease is spreading, the location of malignancies spread, and other factors. Most of the treatment choices often include any combination of the following:

  • Chemotherapy- Chemotherapy is the administration of anticancer medications into the body (by injection into a vein or, in certain cases, by ingesting a tablet) in order to destroy and stop the formation of cancer cells.

  • Radiation Therapy- Radiation therapy is a type of cancer treatment in which high-energy rays are used to destroy cancer cells.

  • Targeted Therapies- This type of cancer treatment employs medications that precisely attack cancerous blood cells while leaving healthy ones alone. The most prevalent treatment for leukemia is targeted therapy.

  • Stem Cell Transplantation- In some cases, healthy stem cells can be injected into the body to assist in resuming healthy blood production.

  • Cancer Surgery- In order to treat certain lymphomas, the afflicted lymph nodes are removed.

  • Immunotherapy- This treatment stimulates the immune system to attack cancer cells.

  • Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) T Cell Treatment - also known as CAR T cell therapy. The therapy is used in certain types of blood cancer treatment, and its use is under investigation in other types of cancer therapy.

  • Bloodless Transplantation- It is done for people who are unable to obtain blood transfusions.


Hematological malignancies affect the formation and function of blood cells. The majority of these malignancies begin in the bone marrow. The normal development of blood cells is disrupted in most malignancies by the uncontrolled proliferation of an abnormal form of a blood cell. These malignant blood cells prohibit the blood from functioning many of its functions, such as fighting infections and avoiding severe bleeding.

Several therapeutic options are available for treating hematologic malignancies, including blood transfusion, molecular target therapy, immunotherapy, radiation, and chemotherapy. It could be managed by following a healthy diet and taking the appropriate medications and therapy.

Dr. Rajesh Gulati
Dr. Rajesh Gulati

Family Physician


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