Hematologist-Oncologist: What Is That and Why Do You Need One?

Learn More About the Hematology and Cancer Specialist

Researchers comparing slides in hematology lab
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A hematologist-oncologist is a doctor with special training in the diagnosis and treatment of blood diseases (especially blood cell cancers such as iron-deficiency anemia, hemophilia, sickle-cell disease, leukemia, and lymphoma.

This type of doctor is trained in both hematology (the study of blood) and oncology (the study of cancer). Oncologists, specifically, should also have some expertise and proficiency in the management of solid tumors (like breast cancer).

Some hematologist-oncologists become stem cell transplantation experts.

When your primary care doctor diagnoses you with a hematological disease or specific cancer, you will be given a referral for a doctor that specializes in the hematology condition or specific cancer that needs to be treated.

Why See a Hematologists-Oncologists?

Try not to worry if your primary care doctor refers you to a hematologist-oncologist. Not everyone with a blood problem needs a hematologist and not everyone with a blood disorder will need an oncologist. Hematology/Oncology is just a combined specialty which means that the doctor is trained in both fields.There are a variety of reasons why your doctor may have referred you to a hematologist-oncologist.

Perhaps you have been feeling tired and a routine blood test has revealed a low number of red blood cells. You may be having unexplained bleeding, clotting problems or infections.

Perhaps you have had a blood clot in your leg or lung and may need to see a hematologist to evaluate why a clot developed, another situation may be that tests ordered by your doctor have revealed a tumor on your body. The most common reasons to see an oncologist specializing in malignant (cancerous) hematology include:

Once you have set up an appointment with a hematologist-oncologist, be sure to provide them with an accurate and complete version of your family and medical history (since as many as 15% of cancers are caused by genes passed from a parent to a child).

What to Expect From the Consultation With the Specialist

Visiting with a hematologist-oncologist is very much like a visit with your primary care doctor. You should expect the following:

  • The specialist will ask about your complete medical history.
  • Perform a physical exam.
  • Depending on why you were referred, the specialist may:
    • order more blood tests or,
    • perform a bone marrow biopsy (a more invasive procedure than a blood test)
  • Your hematologist will communicate with both you and your primary care physician on how to move forward with your plan of care.

After the initial consultation, the direction of your plan of care depends on your condition.  Some common procedures performed by a hematologist-oncologist include:

  • Biotherapy. Biologic therapy treatment is done to encourage the patient's own immune system and abilities to fight infections or diseases, or to heal healthy tissue after treatment.
  • Chemotherapy. This type of therapy treatment uses drugs to kill bacteria, viruses, fungi, and cancer cells. Chemotherapy is a systemic treatment (unlike radiation therapy and surgery, which are localized treatments) where the drugs travel throughout the whole body. This means cancer cells that may have spread to other areas can be reached.
  • Blood Transfusions. If you lose too much blood through an injury or major surgery, or by having an illness that destroys blood cells (such as hemolytic anemia or thrombocytopenia) then you will require a blood transfusion to replace the lost blood.
  • Allogeneic Bone Marrow Transplantation. This procedure involves replacing damaged bone marrow with healthy bone marrow from another person donor (related or non-related). It may need to be done with cancers such as leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma
  • Autologous Stem Cell Transplantation. This type of treatment uses stem cells taken from the patient's own blood prior to chemotherapy or radiation treatment and replaced after treatment.


    Baylor Scott & White Health.Hematology / Medical Oncology. Accessed 10 March 2016.

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