Blood Cancer Treatment

Expert treatment for leukemia, lymphoma, myeloma and more.

Oncologist reviews treatment for leukemia with blood cancer patient

There are three main types of blood cancer: lymphoma (cancers that start in the lymph system, including Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma), leukemia (cancer of the bone marrow) and myeloma (cancer of the plasma cells). Your treatment for blood cancer begins with your doctor recommending a customized plan based on expert guidelines, called protocols. Your treatment is also determined by:

  • The type of blood cancer you have
  • Its subtype, phase, category or stage
  • Your health history, symptoms and overall health
  • Your white cell count, cytogenetic analysis and results from other tests
  • Where the cancer cells are, how the disease has progressed and whether it is in your central nervous system
  • How treatment will affect your quality of life

Blood cancer treatment options

There are several standard treatments for blood cancers. Many people undergo a combination of treatments. 

  • Chemotherapy: Also called “chemo,” this therapy involves the use of drugs to kill cancer cells throughout the body. Learn more about chemotherapy.
  • Targeted therapies are drugs or other substances that block the growth and spread of cancer by interfering with specific molecules; this type of treatment is different than chemotherapy. Learn more about targeted therapy.
  • Plasmapheresis uses a machine to separates certain cells from the blood’s plasma. Those cells are then returned to the person.
  • Radiation therapy uses X-rays or radioactive particles to destroy cancer cells. May be used if the disease is localized (in one area) or is pressing on a vital body structure. Learn more about radiation therapy.
  • Immunotherapy is treatment that uses your body’s own immune system to help fight cancer; CAR T-cell therapy is a new immune system approach recently approved by the FDA to treat certain lymphoma cancers. Learn more about immunotherapy.
  • Antibiotic therapy is sometimes used in treating lymphoma. Researchers are studying the connection between infections and lymphoma. Antibiotic therapy is used to fight infection and also shows promise in treating cancer.
  • Watchful waiting is monitoring your condition without treatment until your symptoms appear or change. Some blood cancers can be managed this way, usually if they are slow-growing or chronic. Sometimes this is called active surveillance.

Talk to your doctor about these and other options for treating blood cancer. There may also be a clinical trial (research study) for which you are eligible. Researchers are discovering new therapies for treating cancer all the time, giving doctors new resources for your care.  

Blood cancer experts

Legacy Cancer Institute, located in Portland, OR, ranks among the nation’s best cancer programs. We have a team of blood cancer specialists who work together to diagnose and develop a personalized treatment plan for you. Find the right provider and treatment close to home.

Legacy Cancer Institute is accredited as an integrated network cancer program by the American College of surgeons Commission on Cancer (CoC). Learn more about our quality cancer care.

Working together for you

Our cancer experts work together with a common goal: delivering the right care for you.

A range of specialists collaborate regularly in meetings called tumor boards to discuss the best plan for your care. Your treatment plan is made just for you, depending on your general health, your age, your particular cancer and its growth.

Legacy Health collaborates with the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute to advance cancer care in our region. By working together, you benefit from the strength of both leaders in cancer care. As an integrated community cancer program for adults, we make sure that you have access to the latest treatments, technology and research available. 

Care for children

Blood cancers are a common type of childhood cancers. Medical advances mean more children with cancer are saved each year. Our team of experts at Randall Children's Hospital at Legacy Emanuel work together to provide the latest treatment options for children with leukemia or lymphoma.

Learn more about treatment of childhood cancers.  

What happens next

Many cancer treatments can cause challenging side effects. Your cancer team is dedicated to helping you manage these side effects in the best ways possible. Comfort care can treat symptoms to help improve your quality of life; this is also called palliative care.

To see how well your treatment is working, some of the tests used to diagnose and stage your cancer may be repeated. Your doctor uses these tests to decide whether to stop, change or continue treatment based on the results. These tests can also determine if cancer has returned. Whenever possible, we work to stop the growth of cancer and reduce the chance of cancer coming back.  

More support

You are not alone. Legacy offers support throughout your cancer journey, as well as care for your emotional, social and spiritual needs.