Hematologic malignancies are cancers of the bone marrow, lymph nodes and spleen—organs responsible for the production of blood cells. People with hematologic malignancies may have an increased or decreased number of normal blood cells and possibly a large quantity of abnormal cells. Specialists at the Indiana University Health Melvin & Bren Simon Cancer Center care for patients with the three most common hematologic malignancies: leukemia, lymphoma and multiple myeloma.

Lymphoma is cancer of the lymph nodes, usually in the neck, armpits or groin. These nodes are part of the lymphatic system, which helps the body fight disease. Within this system are lymphocytes (cells that work to destroy harmful bacteria), viruses and other infectious agents. As abnormal lymphocytes replace healthy ones, the result is a variety of symptoms, such as:

  • Swelling of lymph nodes. Nodes in the neck, armpits or groin may swell and become tender.
  • Fatigue. Feeling as if you have no energy.
  • Fevers and chills. This may include night sweats.

The specialized, multidisciplinary team at the IU Health Melvin & Bren Simon Cancer Center has extensive experience with blood cancers. The department also has a full laboratory that delivers test results quickly. These factors make it possible to receive a diagnosis and treatment plan in one day.

Our hematology and blood cancer specialists use the following diagnostic tools:

  • Blood testing. Checking various blood cell counts for cancerous cells or changes in blood cell chromosomes.
  • Bone marrow and fine needle aspiration biopsy. Removing a small piece of bone and bone marrow through a needle inserted into the hipbone or breastbone or into a lymph node.
  • Radiographic studies such as X-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans or positron emission tomography (PET) scans. Taking internal pictures of the body.
  • Flow cytometry. Measuring the number of cells in a sample and determining certain cell characteristics such as size, shape and the presence of tumor markers.

Lymphoma Treatment

Physicians in the hematology and blood cancer department work to earn your trust and support you throughout your treatment. We explain all your treatment options and work with you and your family to achieve the best outcome. From diagnosis through follow-up, you can expect our team of doctors and nurses to support you every step of the way.

Treatment of blood cancers at IU Health Simon Cancer Center includes the full range of treatment options available. In cases of slow-growing cancers, this may be a “watch and wait” approach. With aggressive lymphomas, treatment may begin almost immediately with chemotherapy, radiation, immunotherapy or a combination of these types of treatments. Options include:

  • Chemotherapy. Destroys cancer cells with drugs. These may be drugs in common use or those tested in clinical trials.
  • Surgery. Removes the cancer and sometimes surrounding healthy tissue and lymph nodes.
  • Radiotherapy. Destroys cancer cells and shrinks tumors.
  • Immunotherapy. Drugs that stimulate your body’s immune system to fight cancer.
  • Monoclonal antibodies. Laboratory-produced substances that can locate and bind to cancer cells in the body. They are used to deliver drugs, toxins or radioactive material directly to a tumor.
  • Bone marrow transplantation. Replaces bone marrow that has been destroyed by high doses of drug or radiation treatments. Transplant material may be your own marrow (harvested before other treatment) or that of a donor.

The CompleteLife Program offers a compassionate and knowledgable staff to care for emotional, mental, social and spiritual needs you may have as a patient at the IU Health Simon Cancer Center.

Lymphoma Research

Specialists at the IU Health Simon Cancer Center are involved in research and education. Our research role provides patients with blood cancers a level of expertise not found at most hospitals. Our specialists and staff diagnose and treat hundreds of people with blood cancers each year.

Specialists at the IU Health Simon Cancer Center are involved in groundbreaking research at the national level. Specific topics include:

  • Molecularly targeted therapy
    • Address the underlying mechanisms that make abnormal white cells become cancerous and what we can do to destroy them.
    • Develop drugs that attack only cancerous cells and not normal cells.
  • Immune therapy
    • Develop drugs to activate the immune system to attack cancerous cells on its own.

More information about cancer research can be found on the Indiana University School of Medicine website.

Research conducted at the IU Health Simon Cancer Center includes clinical trials of various treatments that may provide even better outcomes than current standard treatments of blood cancers.