Hematologic Malignancies

Hematologic Malignancies

Athens Medical Group (AMG) is one of the leading medical facilities in Europe for the diagnosis and management of various blood diseases.

At AMG, hematologists work in close collaboration with experts from other medical fields in order to provide a holistic treatment and care for adults and children with hematological malignancies.

Our hematologists make an individualized treatment and care plan based on accurate diagnosis and assessment of your condition.

Our care teams intensively incorporate the most advanced and innovative diagnostic and therapeutic approach, following the latest internationally set guidelines and protocols.

The range of treatments offered to our patients with hematologic malignancies includes chemotherapy, radiation, targeted therapy, biological therapy and stem cell therapy.

Hematologic malignancies usually affect the production and function of blood cells. Most of these malignancies originate in the bone marrow where blood is produced.

There are numerous hematologic malignancies, the most common types of which are:

  • Leukemia: Malignancy that develops in blood-forming tissue and usually involves white blood cells.
  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma: Malignancy that usually originates in the lymphatic system.
  • Hodgkin’s lymphoma: Malignancy that develops in the lymphatic system.
  • Multiple myeloma: Malignancy that originates from the plasma cells of the bone marrow.

Hematologic malignancies appear to be rising in the United States as well as Europe.

There are several symptoms that raise suspicion for hematologic malignancies, such as:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Persistent fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Weight loss
  • Night sweats
  • Bone/joint pain
  • Discomfort in the abdomen
  • Headaches
  • Itchy skin or skin rash
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck, underarms, groin

Generally, the diagnosis of hematologic malignancies is based on the following tests:

  • Physical examination

The doctor examines the patient for signs and symptoms, such as swollen lymph nodes, spleen or liver.

  • Lymph node biopsy

The excision of a lymph node for appropriate laboratory testing in order to determine the presence of malignant cells, such as lymphoma.

  • Blood tests

Hematologic tests identify disturbances in the blood cells (number and quality) that may raise suspicions for malignancies, such as leukemia.

  • Bone marrow biopsy

Bone marrow trephine and biopsy may reveal malignant cells in case of bone marrow involvement.

  • Imaging tests

CT, MRI and positron emission tomography (PET) are used, among others, for the initial staging and response assessment during follow up period.

  • Staging

Initial staging based on the aforementioned procedures has both prognostic and therapeutic implications

Staging is important in:

  • allowing your care team and doctors prepare a personalized treatment and care plan
  • determining disease prognosis for your condition
  • identifying clinical trials that may potentially have positive effect on the disease

Based on the available diagnostic data, such as the type and stage of your disease as well as your performance status, a personalized treatment plan is selected having an ultimate goal: the cure of your disease.

  • Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy involves the periodic use of specific drugs to destroy leukemia and lymphoma cells, often over the course of several months. The drugs are usually administered intravenously or sometimes orally, as a pill.

At Athens Medical Group, we offer a full range of chemotherapy options for all types and stages of blood cancer.

Your personal team of medical and radiation oncologists will work closely to provide a chemotherapy plan that is most appropriate for you.

  • Targeted drug therapy

This type of therapy involves the use of special drugs that target particular functions of the malignant cells that allow them to grow.

Unlike standard chemotherapy, which affects all body cells, it damages leukemic and lymphomatous cells without hurting the healthy ones, thus minimizing side effects.

Targeted therapy may be used in combination with other treatments, such as chemotherapy, as part of a personalized treatment plan.

  • Biological therapy

Biological therapy is sometimes used for the treatment of some hematological malignancies. It aims to help your immune system recognize and attack malignant cells in your blood, such as leukemia cells.

  • Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy involves the use of energy sources to destroy malignant cells targeted to a particular organ or area of the body. It works by damaging the genetic material within the cancerous cells and preventing them to grow.

Current methods of radiotherapy allow for much less damage to healthy cells of nearby tissues.

Radiotherapy could be used as a sole therapy or in combination with chemotherapy curatively or as a palliation therapy.

  • Stem cell therapy

It involves the transplant of healthy stem cells in the bone marrow. Stem cell transplant is performed after chemotherapy or radiation therapy to destroy your diseased bone marrow. Then you receive an infusion of blood-forming stem cells that help to rebuild your bone marrow.

At AMG we offer the type of stem cell transplant that is called autologous, as the stem cells originate from the patient him/herself, usually in the phase of remission of his or her disease.

  • Autologous transplantation

Autologous transplantation is applied for various hematological malignancies and especially for the treatment of Hodgkin’s lymphoma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and multiple myeloma. It is applied primarily to patients who have relapsed or who are resistant to initial chemotherapy and, less frequently, in high-risk patients in the first recession of the disease. Applying chemotherapy is necessary both to reduce the burden of the disease and to assess chemosensitivity, as the latter is the main predictor of the outcome of autologous transplantation.

The philosophy of autologous transplantation of stem cells is based on the administration of chemotherapy or radiotherapy in doses of irreversible hematological toxicity but within acceptable toxicity limits for other vital organs. In this way, the resistance of the malignant cells can be surpassed, and then, with the help of the re-administered stem cells, the hematopoiesis can be restored.

During the hospital stay of the transplant patient, supportive care and very good physical hygiene are key factors for the best outcome. The patient is hospitalized in specially designed rooms, under the close supervision of specialised personnel.

Some of the most frequent questions asked to our doctors include:

  • What is the type and stage of my blood malignancy?
  • Has my blood disease spread to other parts of my body?
  • What kind of tests will I need?
  • What are my treatment options?
  • Can my blood disease be cured? What are the chances?
  • How much does each treatment increase my chances for cure?
  • What are the potential side effects of each treatment?
  • How will my daily life be affected by each treatment?
  • Which treatment do you believe is best for me?
  • Would it help to seek a second opinion?
  • Would it help to see a specialist? What will be the cost of that? Will my insurance cover it?
  • Is there any printed material that I can take with me? Where can I find more information online?
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