Hematologist: experience, specialties and training


A hematologist is a doctor who specializes in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of blood disorders. This includes cancers and benign diseases that affect individual components of the blood (such as white blood cells , red blood cells , or platelets ) or the organs that make them (including the bone marrow and spleen ).

Hematology is a specialty of internal medicine that often overlaps with oncology (the study of cancer). Hematology-Oncology is a combined fellowship program. which prepares the therapist to diagnose, treat, and treat a wide range of blood-related disorders.

Some hematologists will have separate practice, treating both hematology patients and internal medicine patients like their primary care physician (PCP). Others may choose to pursue a career as a hematopathologist , a professional laboratory technician who evaluates and interprets blood, bone marrow, and other related samples.

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Hematologists work directly with patients with blood disorders. If you are referred to one of these, it is because a known or suspected disorder is beyond the ability of your treating physician, and an expert who focuses solely on the blood will be of great help. A referral to a hematologist does not inherently mean that you have cancer.

Among the diseases that a hematologist can treat or participate in treatment:

Procedural experience

Almost all medical conditions are related to hematology to one degree or another, as blood tests are commonly used to diagnose or monitor them.

The hematologist can sometimes act as the primary physician (especially those who specialize in childhood leukemia) or work as part of a team that may include, but is not limited to, a radiologist , surgeon , radiation oncologist , geneticist , and rheumatologist .

In addition to diagnosing a disease, a hematologist can help you understand the diagnosis, develop an individualized treatment plan, and, if necessary, coordinate surgery, blood transfusion , chemotherapy , radiation therapy , or immunotherapy .

In addition to blood tests, the hematologist may perform other procedures:

  • Bone marrow aspiration is the removal of a liquid portion of the bone marrow to diagnose leukemia or lymphoma.
  • A bone marrow biopsy is the removal of the hard core of the bone marrow to help diagnose leukemia and other cancers.
  • Hemoglobin electrophoresis is a blood test used to confirm sickle cell anemia or other inherited disorders that affect red blood cells.
  • The human leukocyte antigen (HLA) test is a blood test used to determine if a donor bone marrow is suitable for a patient.
  • A positron emission tomography (PET) scan is an imaging test that uses a radioactive tracer to detect cancerous areas in the body.
  • A lumbar puncture (lumbar puncture) involves the removal of cerebrospinal fluid to determine if the sample contains cancer blood cells.
  • Magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) uses a magnetic field and radio waves to produce cross-sectional images of blood vessels to help diagnose stroke and other vascular diseases.
  • Stem cell and bone marrow transplants can be used to treat certain leukemias, lymphomas, and benign blood disorders.

Hematologist-oncologists also receive specialized training in the use of chemotherapy drugs and other treatments for blood cancer, including targeted drugs and immunotherapy drugs.

Training and Certification

Certification in hematology requires a four-year medical degree – Doctor of Medicine (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) – followed by a three-year internship to study in a specialized area of practice such as internal medicine or pediatrics.

Upon completion of their residency, hematology candidates will undertake a two- to four-year internship to study in a narrow, specific specialty such as adult hematology, pediatric hematology / oncology, or hematopathology.

Board of Hematology certification obtained by the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) or the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP). ASCP certified hematopathologists can often be identified by the abbreviation 'MD SH (ASCP) ”at the end of their name.

Physicians are required by law to be licensed by the state in which they practice. While licensing laws vary from state to state, they all generally require you to graduate from an accredited medical school, successfully complete a special residency, and pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE).

Based on income data from the 2018 Medscape Compensation Report, a hematologist can expect to earn between a physician ($ 230,000) and an oncologist ($ 363,000).

Recording tips

If you are referred to a hematologist, it is because your condition is based on blood abnormalities or due to a medical procedure, such as a stem cell transplant, under the supervision of a specialist.

Before meeting with your hematologist for the first time, prepare a list of the symptoms you have experienced, including timing, duration, and severity. It is often helpful to keep a symptom log to record each time an adverse event occurs.

Also, take the time to prepare a list of questions to better understand the nature of your condition and what to expect in the future. Examples include:

  • What do my blood test results mean?
  • What tests do you recommend for me?
  • What does the test imply?
  • When can I expect results?
  • How controllable is my condition?
  • What are the benefits and risks of the treatment?
  • What side effects can I expect?
  • What happens if I don't get treatment?
  • What is the response to treatment?
  • When will I know if the treatment is successful?

It is also important to make sure that the hematologist and labs are part of your insurance company's network . If not, you may be able to find someone who is, especially if you suspect that testing or treatment may be expensive or lengthy.

To find a board certified hematologist, ask your PCP for a list of references or use the online locator offered by the American Society of Hematology.

Get the word of drug information

A hematologist is a highly qualified specialist who must work in collaboration with your treating physician, not replace him, so that the appropriate treatment is in the context of your general condition. Health. This is especially important if you have several chronic conditions, such as diabetes or liver disease, that could affect your treatment decision.

Not everyone with a blood disorder needs a hematologist. If you have blood in your stool, it may be more appropriate to see a gastroenterologist . The same is true for hemorrhagic infections, for which an infectious disease specialist is more suitable.

As with any doctor you may know, it is important to verify the doctor's credentials with the ABIM or ASCP .

If you are unsure about the course of treatment, feel free to seek the help of another specialist or ask that your medical information be passed on to another doctor.

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