Treating Different Types of Blood Cancer

Many people with certain blood cancers receive similar kinds of treatment. However, each person's exact treatment is based on the unique feature of their disease, especially the type of blood cancer they have. There are many different types of blood cancer. The main categories of blood cancer include:

  • Leukemia
  • Lymphoma
  • Myeloma
  • Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS)
  • Myeloproliferative neoplasm (MPN)

Each of these types of blood cancer can be further classified into subtypes. To find the best course of treatment, doctors also consider:

  • The stage or extent of the cancer
  • How quickly the disease is growing
  • Genetic mutations that may be present in the diseased cells
  • Age and overall health of the person
  • Potential side effects (both short- and long-term) of each type of therapy

Categories of treatment by type of blood cancer

Several different kinds of treatment may be used for each type of blood cancer. A general overview of treatment categories that may be used for each of the main types of blood cancer follows below.

It is important to note that this is not a complete list of all treatments that may be used for each person. Not all treatments listed are right or an option for every person with blood cancer. Each person should talk to their doctor about their treatment options based on their type of cancer and unique needs.1-11

Leukemia

Lymphoma

  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation
  • Stem cell transplant
  • Targeted therapy
  • Immunotherapy
  • Surgery
  • Phototherapy

Myeloma

  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted therapy
  • Immunotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Watchful waiting
  • Surgery
  • Stem cell transplant

MDS

  • Supportive care
  • Drug therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Stem cell transplant

MPN

  • Watchful waiting
  • Phlebotomy
  • Platelet apheresis
  • Blood transfusions
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Surgery
  • Immunotherapy
  • Targeted therapy
  • Stem cell transplant

New types of treatment

New treatments for different types of blood cancer are being researched. Some are available in clinical trials. Clinical trials are an important part of the scientific process to find and prove the safety and effectiveness of new treatments. They offer people a chance to receive the latest treatments and be closely monitored by doctors. Clinical trials can be found by talking to a doctor or through the website ClinicalTrials.gov. People with blood cancer should discuss treatment options with their doctor to determine if participating in a clinical trial may be right for them.12

Palliative care and complementary therapies

Along with standard treatments, palliative care may be a part of the treatment plan for people with blood cancer. Palliative care does not treat the cancer itself but aims to improve quality of life. Palliative care may include pain management and help with physical or emotional symptoms.

Many people with blood cancer also find complementary therapies helpful. Complementary medicine includes practices that may be used along with traditional medicine, such as:

  • Dietary supplements
  • Massage
  • Acupuncture
  • Hypnosis

It is important that people tell their doctor about any complementary practices they may try to ensure nothing impacts their treatment plan.

Editor’s note: The classification of MPN has evolved over time. Some organizations may classify MPN as either a blood cancer or a blood disorder.

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Written by: Emily Downward | Last reviewed: April 2021