Blood Cancers | Types | MedStar Health

Blood (hematologic) cancers are malignancies that disrupt how the body produces blood cells. Most of these cancers develop in the bone marrow, the spongy material in the center of the bones that makes blood.

When cancer cells develop in the bone marrow, abnormal cells multiply uncontrollably. This interrupts the production and function of normal blood cells, including red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. As a result, the cancer makes it harder for your blood to carry oxygen throughout the body, fight off infection, or control bleeding.

There are several types of blood cancers, including lymphoma, leukemia, and multiple myeloma, among others. Many of these are also further grouped by subtypes that require different treatment approaches, including certain cancers that primarily affect children and young adults.

Our approach

At MedStar Health, we have experts specializing in each type of blood cancer, including the subtypes of the various diseases. Because our specialists focus exclusively on certain blood cancer groups, we have extensive experience in diagnosing and treating all cases, including those that are rare.

Your blood cancer treatment hinges on a precise diagnosis that identifies the unique subtype of your cancer and any genetic markers or characteristics that may impact treatment effectiveness. This ensures we can personalize treatment that will be most effective and provide the greatest long-term results. Your cancer care will involve input from hematologic oncologists, as well as experts in pathology, radiology, radiation oncology, and other specialties, to ensure we recommend the best treatment plan.

Treatment will vary person-to-person, considering the following factors:

  • Your cancer type and/or subtype

  • Your overall health

  • Your age

  • Your symptoms

  • The location of your cancer

  • How quickly the cancer is progressing

  • Whether you have a history of cancer

  • Your quality of life

Depending on your unique case, your individualized treatment plan may include one or more of the following:

  • Watchful waiting, for certain diseases that are slow-growing (indolent) or non-symptomatic

  • Chemotherapy, which are drugs that enter the bloodstream to destroy cancer cells

  • Immunotherapy, which harnesses the body's immune system to fight the cancer

  • Targeted therapy, which uses drugs and combinations of drugs to pinpoint certain genetic alterations or proteins within the cancer cells

  • Cellular immunotherapy (CAR T-cell therapy), is an advanced approach that involves collecting and modifying your immune cells before infusing them into your bloodstream to target and kill cancer cells

  • Radiation therapy, which may be used to relieve symptoms in patients with certain blood cancers

  • Stem cell transplantation, which replaces damaged stem cells with healthy cells collected from your own blood stream (autologous transplant) or a donor's (allogeneic transplant)

  • Clinical trials, or research studies that test new and better ways to diagnose and treat cancer

  • Support services that promote healing and address any physical, emotional, psychological, or spiritual needs that arise

Types of blood cancer


Leukemia is a blood cancer that begins in the bone marrow when the genetic makeup of a cell is altered. As abnormal blood cells grow rapidly, there is little space left for normal red and white blood cells and platelets. Leukemia is classified as acute or chronic based on how quickly it progresses and can originate in myeloid cells or lymphoid cells. Certain subtypes are more common in children while others are more prevalent in adults.


Lymphoma is a malignant blood disorder that begins in the lymphatic system. Lymph nodes produce white blood cells called lymphocytes which help to fight infection. When these cells become cancerous, they can multiply within the lymph nodes, bone marrow, spleen, and other organs. These cancers are often grouped into two categories: non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) and Hodgkin lymphoma. There are several subtypes within each grouping, and their varied characteristics require different approaches to treatment.

Multiple myeloma

Cancer that develops in the bone marrow's plasma cells is called myeloma. When this affects multiple parts of the bone or body, it's called multiple myeloma. As cancer cells multiply, it becomes harder for the body to produce healthy blood cells, which affects their ability to function normally. This can cause several other medical issues, such as bone problems, kidney damage, and anemia. Although it cannot be cured, many people can live long, fulfilling lives with ongoing management of this disease.

Looking for expert cancer care?

With multiple locations throughout the region, patients have access to many of the nation’s renowned cancer specialists offering high-quality care, second opinions, and a chance for better outcomes close to where they live and work. Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, one of the nation’s comprehensive cancer centers designated by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), serves as the research engine allowing patients access to clinical trials that often lead to breakthroughs in cancer care.

Our locations

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MedStar Franklin Square Cancer Center at Loch Raven Campus

5601 Loch Raven Blvd.
Russell Morgan Building
First Floor
Baltimore, MD 21239

MedStar Georgetown Cancer Institute at MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center

9103 Franklin Square Dr.
The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Cancer Institute
Suite 220
Baltimore, MD 21237

MedStar Georgetown Cancer Institute at MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital

25500 Point Lookout Rd.
First Fl.
Leonardtown, MD 20650