Blood disorders, also called hematologic conditions, can be either malignant (cancerous) or nonmalignant (not cancerous). Nonmalignant diseases may be called “benign” hematologic disorders, although some can have serious effects on your body even without being cancer.
Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) offers comprehensive treatment for both malignant and nonmalignant disorders from a team of specialists. Our hematologists and hematologist-oncologists have extensive experience with an array of diseases that affect the blood; the bone marrow, where blood cells are produced; and the lymphatic and immune systems, which are closely linked with the blood.
What are blood disorders?
Your body relies on blood to deliver fuel and oxygen to its billions of cells and to combat infections and other diseases. For these reasons, blood disorders can impact a host of bodily functions.
The main components of blood are:
- Red blood cells (RBCs), which carry oxygen throughout the body
- White blood cells (WBCs), which fight infection
- Platelets, which protect against easy bleeding by helping your blood to clot
- Plasma, the liquid part of blood that carries blood cells, nutrients, wastes, hormones and many other substances
Abnormalities in any of these components or in related cells or tissues can cause a blood disorder. The disorder and its symptoms depend on precisely what’s gone wrong.
Low blood counts or high blood counts
Some blood disorders — including leukemia, lymphoma, myeloma, myelodysplastic syndrome and myeloproliferative neoplasms — cause unusually low or high levels of blood cells. In some cases the blood cells don’t form or mature as they should and cannot carry out their normal functions.
- For RBCs, a low level is called anemia. A high level is called polycythemia.
- For WBCs, a low level is called leukopenia. A high level is called leukocytosis.
- For platelets, a low level is called thrombocytopenia. A high level is called thrombocytosis.
Other blood abnormalities
Other blood disorders have to do with a low level or complete lack of substances the body needs, such as clotting factors in hemophilia, or with the presence of unwanted substances in the blood, such as abnormal proteins in amyloidosis. There are many other specific blood disorders that arise in different ways and may have different effects on your body.
Diagnosing blood disorders
Doctors start the process of diagnosing blood disorders by asking about your signs, symptoms and health history and by examining you for signs of a blood-related problem. Based on what they find, they may recommend tests, such as blood tests, bone marrow tests and imaging tests.
Because the liquid portion of your blood (plasma) carries so many substances, a simple blood test can provide valuable information. Your bone marrow makes blood cells, so bone marrow tests may also be essential.
After getting results of initial tests, your doctor may ask for additional, more specific tests to uncover further details of your condition and determine which treatments will help. SCCA doctors have the expertise to determine precisely what your condition is so you get the most appropriate, best-targeted care.
Here are some of the many state-of-the-art tests SCCA doctors use to diagnose problems with the blood or bone marrow.
Blood tests — like a complete blood count, peripheral blood smear and flow cytometry — allow your team to check the number, volume, size, shape and types of cells in your blood. These tests also allow your doctor to check the function of your organs, such as your liver and kidneys. This can be important in choosing the best treatment for your disease.
You may also need blood tests to check for chromosome changes that can help doctors identify and classify your disease (cytogenetic analysis) or to look for disease-related mutations in your genes (genomic testing). If your condition means you need a blood transfusion or bone marrow transplant, blood tests are also used to check that you and your donor are compatible.
Bone marrow tests and tests on other tissues
Stem cells in your bone marrow are responsible for making blood cells. So tests of your marrow can provide important details about the health of your blood.
Doctors may use a thin, hollow needle to remove a sample of bone marrow liquid or tissue (bone marrow aspiration or biopsy), typically from your pelvis or breastbone. A pathologist examines and evaluates the cells (using methods like bone marrow smear, flow cytometry and immunohistochemistry). SCCA has a team of providers who specialize in doing bone marrow procedures to ensure we collect samples safely and comfortably for any test you need.
As with your blood, your team may request cytogenetic analysis and genomic testing of your marrow to look for abnormalities in your chromosomes or genes.
Some blood disorders may affect other organs directly. Many of the same tests done on blood and bone marrow samples can also be done on samples taken from your lymph nodes, liver, skin or other body fluids (like the fluid around your spinal cord or lungs) to make a diagnosis.
SCCA provides the full array of imaging tests you may need to help diagnose blood disorders and related health problems. These include ultrasound, computed tomography (CT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, positron emission tomography (PET) scans and scintigraphy.
SCCA doctors diagnose and treat people with a wide range of blood disorders, including cancers, anemias, hemoglobinopathies, bone marrow failure syndromes, bleeding disorders, platelet disorders, blood clots, plasma cell disorders and other blood-related problems, including rare disorders like POEMS syndrome.
These are some of the many blood disorders we treat. If you don't see your condition on the list, call (855)-557-0555 for more information about receiving treatment here.
- Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL)
- Acute myeloid leukemia (AML)
- Acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL), a subtype of AML
- Aplastic anemia
- Autoimmune thrombocytopenic purpura
- Bone marrow failure syndromes, inherited
- Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)
- Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML)
- Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
- Diamond-Blackfan anemia
- Dyskeratosis congenita (DKC)
- Eosinophilic disorders
- Essential thrombocythemia
- Fanconi anemia
- Gaucher disease
- Hemolytic anemia
- Hereditary spherocytosis
- Hodgkin lymphoma
- Inherited bone marrow failure syndromes
- Iron-deficiency anemia
- Langerhans cell histiocytosis
- Large granular lymphocytic (LGL) leukemia
- Monoclonal gammopathy
- Multiple myeloma
- Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS)
- Myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPN)
- Non-Hodgkin lymphoma
- Paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH)
- Pernicious anemia (B12 deficiency)
- Polycythemia vera
- Post-transplant lymphoproliferative disorder (PTLD)
- Pulmonary embolism (PE)
- Shwachman-Diamond syndrome (SDS)
- Sickle cell disease
- Thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP)
- Venous thromboembolism
- Von Willebrand disease
- Waldenström macroglobulinemia (lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma)