Treating Different Types of Blood Cancer

While many people with certain blood cancers, or blood disorders, receive similar kinds of treatment, each individual’s exact treatment is based on the unique characteristics of their disease, particularly the type of blood cancer or disorder they have. There are many different types of blood cancer. The main categories of blood cancer include:

  • Leukemia
  • Lymphoma
  • Myeloma
  • Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS)

There is also an additional category of blood disorders, known as myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPN).

Each of these types of blood cancer, as well as MPN, can be further classified into subtypes. Doctors also consider the stage or extent of the cancer/disorder, how quickly the disease is growing, particular genetic mutations that might be present in the diseased cells, and the age and overall health of the patient to determine the best course of treatment. Another consideration in treatment is the potential side effects (both short and long-term) of each type of therapy.

Categories of treatment by type of blood cancer/blood disorder

There are several different kinds of treatment that may be used for each type of blood cancer, as well as for MPN. A general overview of the treatment categories that are potentially used for each of the main types of blood cancer and MPN are summarized below. (This is not a complete list of all the kinds of treatment that may be used to treat an individual patient, and not all of the listed treatments are appropriate or an option for every patient. Each person should talk to their doctor about their treatment options based on their type of disease and their unique needs.)

Leukemia

  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation
  • Stem cell transplant
  • Targeted therapy
  • Immunotherapy
  • Surgery
  • Watchful waiting1-4

Lymphoma

  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation
  • Stem cell transplant
  • Targeted therapy
  • Immunotherapy
  • Surgery
  • Phototherapy5-8

Myeloma

  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted therapy
  • Immunotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Watchful waiting
  • Surgery
  • Stem cell transplant9

MDS

  • Supportive care
  • Drug therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Stem cell transplant10

MPN

  • Watchful waiting
  • Phlebotomy
  • Platelet apheresis
  • Blood transfusions
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Surgery
  • Immunotherapy
  • Targeted therapy
  • Stem cell transplant11

New types of treatment

In addition to the standard therapies available to treat the different types of blood cancer and MPN, new treatments are being researched and 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, and they offer patients a chance to receive the latest treatments and be closely monitored by healthcare professionals. Clinical trials can be found by talking to a doctor or through the website ClinicalTrials.gov. Patients can discuss treatment options with their doctor to determine if they might be eligible to participate in a clinical trial. 12

Palliative care and complementary therapies

In addition to the treatments like chemotherapy, targeted therapy, surgery, and radiation therapy, palliative care may be a part of the treatment plan for someone with blood cancer. Palliative care does not treat the cancer itself but aims to improve quality of life of the individual. Palliative care may include pain management or help with physical or emotional symptoms.

Many people with blood cancer also find complementary therapies helpful. Complementary medicine includes practices that may be used in combination with traditional medicine, such as dietary supplements, massage, acupuncture, and hypnosis. It is important that patients tell their doctors about any complementary practices they may take part in to ensure that nothing interferes negatively with their treatment.

Written by: Emily Downward | Last reviewed: March 2018
View References
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  2. Adult acute myeloid leukemia treatment (PDQ), National Cancer Institute. Available at https://www.cancer.gov/types/leukemia/patient/adult-aml-treatment-pdq#section/_36. Accessed 2/8/18.
  3. Chronic lymphocytic leukemia treatment (PDQ), National Cancer Institute. Available at https://www.cancer.gov/types/leukemia/patient/cll-treatment-pdq. Accessed 2/8/18.
  4. Chronic myelogenous leukemia treatment (PDQ), National Cancer Institute. Available at https://www.cancer.gov/types/leukemia/patient/cml-treatment-pdq#section/_48. Accessed 2/8/18.
  5. Adult Hodgkin lymphoma treatment (PDQ), National Cancer Institute. Available at https://www.cancer.gov/types/lymphoma/patient/adult-hodgkin-treatment-pdq#section/_57. Accessed 2/8/18.
  6. Adult Non-Hodgkin lymphoma treatment (PDQ), National Cancer Institute. Available at https://www.cancer.gov/types/lymphoma/patient/adult-nhl-treatment-pdq#section/_190. Accessed 2/8/18.
  7. Childhood Non-Hodgkin lymphoma treatment (PDQ), National Cancer Institute. Available at https://www.cancer.gov/types/lymphoma/patient/child-nhl-treatment-pdq#section/_48. Accessed 2/8/18.
  8. Childhood Hodgkin lymphoma treatment (PDQ), National Cancer Institute. Available at https://www.cancer.gov/types/lymphoma/patient/child-hodgkin-treatment-pdq#section/_51. Accessed 2/8/18.
  9. Plasma cell neoplasms treatment (PDQ), National Cancer Institute. Available at https://www.cancer.gov/types/myeloma/patient/myeloma-treatment-pdq. Accessed 2/6/18.
  10. Myelodysplastic syndromes treatment (PDQ), National Cancer Institute. Available at https://www.cancer.gov/types/myeloproliferative/patient/myelodysplastic-treatment-pdq#section/_49. Accessed 2/7/18.
  11. Chronic myeloproliferative neoplasms treatment (PDQ), National Cancer Institute. Available at https://www.cancer.gov/types/myeloproliferative/patient/chronic-treatment-pdq. Accessed 2/7/18.
  12. ClinicalTrials.gov, National Institutes of Health. Available at http://www.clinicaltrials.gov. Accessed 1/4/18.