What is a hematologist?
A hematologist is a specialist in hematology, the science or study of blood, blood-forming organs and blood diseases. The medical aspect of hematology is concerned with the treatment of blood disorders and malignancies, including types of hemophilia, leukemia, lymphoma and sickle-cell anemia. Hematology is a branch of internal medicine that deals with the physiology, pathology, etiology, diagnosis, treatment, prognosis and prevention of blood-related disorders.
Becoming a hematologist requires 7 or more years of medical school and postgraduate training, before earning a board certification in internal medicine.
In addition, at least 2 years of specialty training, studying a range of hematological disorders, are required. Hematologists can later gain further certification in a subspecialty.
Hematologists work in various settings, including blood banks, pathology laboratories and private clinics. Specialists in this branch of medicine can choose to focus on specific topics within the field of hematology, such as lymphatic organs and bone marrow and may diagnose blood count irregularities or platelet irregularities. They are able to treat organs that are fed by blood cells, including the lymph nodes, spleen, thymus and lymphoid tissue.
Those in blood banks work to keep blood supplies safe and accessible, and may supervise labs that analyze blood samples and provide advice to organizations that provide advocacy services for patients with genetic blood disorders. These hematologists may also work with government agencies on education campaigns designed to inform the public of disorders, such as anemia.
As part of a patient care team, hematologists work closely with surgeons, radiation oncologists and other specialists to help patients understand their diagnosis, develop individualized treatment plans, coordinate aspects of care and provide surgical, chemotherapeutic and immunotherapeutic treatment.
The work of hematologists is supported by laboratory technicians who examine samples of blood and blood forming tissue, which provide information about abnormalities and issues identified in laboratory screening. A hematologist may also specialize in genetic testing if they focus on inherited blood conditions.
Hematologists working in laboratories are referred to as hematopathologists. These physicians work closely with hematologists to diagnose hematological diseases. Working together, the hematologist and hematopathologist formulate a diagnosis and deliver appropriate therapy when needed.
Hematologists treat blood diseases and disorders. Examples include:
• hemophilia and idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura;
• hematologic malignancies, such as leukemia and lymphoma;
• arterial thromboembolism;
• deep-vein thrombosis; and
Not only does a hematologist focus on the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of blood diseases, but also on immunologic, hemostatic (blood clotting) and vascular systems.
Hematologic tests aid in the diagnosis of blood diseases such as anemia, certain cancers of the blood and inflammatory diseases, and help monitor blood loss and infection.
An example of a hematologic test is a complete blood count (CBC). This test includes white blood cell count, red blood cell count, platelet count, hematocrit red blood cell volume (HCT), hemoglobin concentration (HB), differential white blood count and red blood cell indices.
Other examples of hematologic tests include prothrombin time (PT), partial thromboplastin time (PTT) and international normalized ratio (INR).
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