Hematology is the subspecialty of internal medicine concerned with disorders of the blood, bone marrow and lymphatic systems. These include anemias, disorders of white blood cells or platelets, aplastic anemia and other bone marrow failures, abnormal clotting and bleeding, Hodgkin’s disease and blood malignancies such as leukemia, lymphoma, multiple myeloma, hairy cell leukemia and related problems.
Hematologists must first complete seven or more years of medical school and postgraduate training and become board certified in Internal Medicine. Then, for an additional two years, they study a broad range of hematological disorders.
What hematologists do
As internists, hematologists are called in for cases of suspected blood disorders when the diagnosis is unclear or specialized medical care is needed. They coordinate total patient care, working, where needed, with surgeons, radiation therapists, gynecologists or other specialists.
They sometimes offer patients an opportunity to participate in clinical research that might result in more effective methods of treatment.
When you need a hematologist
Not everyone with a blood problem needs a hematologist. Many blood problems are diagnosed and managed by general internists. When special knowledge in diagnosis and treatment is required, the skills of a hematologist are called upon. Treatments may include therapeutic phlebotomy, bone marrow aspiration, core bone marrow biopsy, and chemotherapy or other special therapy.
How hematologists work with other physicians
In most cases, you will still need a general internist or other primary care physician for non-hematology-related medical care, although some hematologists maintain a general internal medicine practice as well as their subspecialty.
If you have been referred by a primary care physician to a hematologist, in most cases you will go back to the primary care physician for follow-up care. If you require continuing care for hematology related conditions, your primary care physician and your hematologist, working together, will recommend which physician you should see.