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 depend on blood samples to help diagnose and monitor diseases of all sorts. Because the liquid portion of your blood (plasma) carries so many substances, a simple blood test can provide valuable information that might otherwise require extensive and invasive procedures.
Complete blood count
Testing to detect and identify blood disorders often begins with a complete blood count (CBC). This test uses a small blood sample to determine the type, quantity and volume of different cells in your bloodstream.
CBC is often supplemented by examining your blood cells under a microscope — sometimes called a smear test because it involves spreading a drop of blood on a slide. This test helps your doctor better evaluate the number, size and shape of the cells.
Bone marrow aspiration and biopsy
Sometimes doctors request a bone marrow test for a definitive diagnosis. Because the stem cells in your bone marrow are responsible for making blood cells, this test can provide important details about the health of your blood. A doctor uses a hollow needle to remove a tiny sample of bone marrow liquid (for bone marrow aspiration) or bone marrow tissue (for bone marrow biopsy), typically from your pelvis or breastbone.
Other tests for blood disorders
SCCA provides these and many other tests and imaging procedures, such as computed tomography (CT) scans and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, that you may need to diagnose blood disorders and related health problems. Our doctors have the expertise to determine precisely what your condition is so you get the most appropriate, best-targeted treatment.
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.
- Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL)
- Acute myeloid leukemia (AML)
- Acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL), a subtype of AML
- Aplastic anemia
- 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
- Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP)
- 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)