Why do people with blood disorders see cancer doctors

Dual oncology and hematology training packs powerful one-two care punch.

You might be surprised to learn that more than half of all Norton Cancer Institute patients do not have cancer. They have blood disorders.

The institute routinely sees patients who have non-cancerous problems, such as anemia, white blood cell or platelet disorders, and sickle cell disease.

Many Norton cancer specialists are board certified to treat cancer and blood disorders, according to Joseph M. Flynn, D.O., MPH, executive director and physician-in-chief, Norton Cancer Institute. Physicians complete a combined three-year fellowship to earn the option for dual certification.

Others may have specialized training only in benign and cancerous disorders of the blood.

Why oncology and hematology make a good combination

“The two fields often overlap. Together, our experts in these subspecialties give us a powerful way to tackle cancer and noncancerous blood disorders in a comprehensive, multidisciplinary way,” Dr. Flynn said.

Most non-cancerous blood disorders affect how blood is produced and how it works. Such changes often cause unusually low or high blood cell counts. They can also prevent blood cells from forming properly.

Improper cell formation is a hallmark of sickle cell disease (SCD). Decades ago, most people with this inherited blood disorder died as children. Thanks to improved screening, treatment and support, SCD patients now live longer, so they need ongoing care.

Norton Cancer Institute typically sees more adults with SCD than any other cancer center in the Louisville area.

To fill the care gap these patients often face as they “age out” of pediatric programs, the institute launched an Adult Sickle Cell Program last year.

The new program is built around care, education and support services that are shown through research to work for adults:

  • One easy-to-access resource is a patient’s history, with all their therapy information and needs..
  • Patients receive care from a multidisciplinary team. Team members can include a physician, nurse, occupational or physical therapist, dietitian, licensed clinical social worker and other specialists.
  • Norton Cancer Institute’s Prompt Care Clinics can provide rapid relief for periodic SCD pain crises. They also help patients avoid costly, time-consuming emergency department visits. Call (502) 629-HOPE for details on Prompt Care Clinics.

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