What is a hematologist-oncologist?
A hematologist-oncologist is a physician who specializes in the diagnosis, treatment and/or prevention of blood diseases and cancers such as iron-deficiency anemia, hemophilia, sickle-cell disease, leukemia and lymphoma. This physician is trained in hematology — the study of blood — and oncology — the study of cancer.
Hematologist-oncologists do not usually treat operable cancers such as prostate cancer, but specialize in treating blood cancers, such as Hodgkins and non-Hodgkins lymphomas, leukemias and multiple myelomas. A hematologist-oncologist may also specialize in the management of solid tumors.
After completion of medical school, residency lasts between 2 and 4 years and includes both inpatient and outpatient rotations. During this time, fellows receive first-hand experience in managing various cancer types and blood disorders. The some of the top hematologist-oncologist fellowship programs are the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and MD Anderson Cancer Center.
Although many hematology-oncology graduates end up solely focusing on oncology, the two specialties intersect in the understanding of leukemias, lymphomas and solid tumors. Hematology and oncology are further joined in the diagnosis and management of hematologic conditions that may accompany various malignancies.
Areas of study
These physicians may train to become pediatric hematologist-oncologists where they care for children with cancer, hemophilia and/or sickle-cell disease. Training includes a 3-year residency in pediatrics after medical school where residents are exposed to pediatric hematology-oncology during rotation.
Some hematologist-oncologists may convert to the field of stem cell transplantation. A stem cell transplant consists of the infusion of healthy stem cells into a patient’s body that does not produce enough healthy stem cells. This type of procedure, also dubbed a bone marrow transplant, decreases the risk for serious infections, anemia and bleeding.
Connection to other branches of medicine
Hematologist-oncologists often work closely with colleagues from other departments including: radiation-oncology, surgery, radiology and pathology. Other associated specialties include infectious disease, pain medicine and psychology.