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Hematology Frequently Asked Questions

What is a hematologist?

A hematologist is a doctor who specializes in blood disorders and conditions of the lymphatic system, which includes the lymph nodes and neighboring vessels. These specialists research, diagnose, treat, and work to prevent many diseases that involve your red and white blood cells, blood vessels, and more.

What conditions do hematologists treat?

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Hematologists treat a variety of conditions that affect your blood and blood-forming organs. Some of these conditions include:

  • anemia: a condition in which there aren’t enough healthy red blood cells in your body
  • deep vein thrombosis: this is when blood clots form inside your veins
  • hemophilia: a condition that prevents your blood from clotting
  • leukemia: a type of cancer that affects your blood cells
  • lymphoma: a type of cancer that affects your lymph nodes and vessels
  • thalassemia: a condition affecting hemoglobin production
  • sepsis: an infection in your blood that can cause organ failure
  • sickle cell anemia: this prevents your red blood cells from circulating

What procedures do hematologists perform?

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As blood specialists, hematologists spend a lot of time studying blood, diagnosing blood conditions, and performing various procedures. Some of the tests and procedures performed by a hematologist include:

  • complete blood count: a test that helps your doctor diagnose and monitor diseases
  • prothrombin time: a test that looks for bleeding or blood clotting disorders
  • blood transfusion: a procedure to replace the blood you’ve lost
  • chemotherapy: a procedure that infuses your blood with chemicals to kill fast-growing cancer cells
  • bone marrow transplant: a stem cell transplant that replaces diseased cells with healthy ones
  • ablation therapy: a procedure that uses various therapies to destroy damaged tissue

When should I go to a hematologist?

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Most first visits to a hematologist start with a referral made by your primary care physician (PCP). There are several reasons why your PCP may refer you to a hematologist, including low red blood cell counts, blood clot complications, blood infections, or the development of certain cancers.

What can I expect during my first hematologist appointment?

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Your hematologist often partners with other specialists and doctors to provide you with the care you need. Throughout your treatment, you may see a combination of specialists and doctors as they work together to provide your care. This may include oncologists, internists, and your primary care physician.

During your first visit, your hematologist may have blood samples drawn and sent to labs where technicians will evaluate the samples for diseases, blood and platelet count, and more. Your hematologist may also recommend additional tests or procedures and will counsel you on your options for a treatment plan.

What questions should I ask my hematologist?

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It’s important to show up to your hematologist appointment prepared. To help you get started, we’ve created a good list of questions you can ask:

  • Are my lab results normal or abnormal?
  • What do you think is the cause of my symptoms?
  • Are there any tests you recommend I get?
  • What are the potential side effects involved with these tests or treatments?
  • What are the risks and benefits associated with this treatment?
  • What are the chances of this treatment succeeding?
  • What does this treatment cost?
  • Can my condition be cured, or do I have to live with it?
  • What lifestyle changes can I make to improve my quality of life?
  • Are there any follow-up appointments I need to make?

Use these questions as a starting point, but feel free to add your own. A good practice is to also ask for additional information and take notes during your appointment.