Leukemia & Lymphoma

Treatment for blood cancers in St. Helena

Leukemia is a cancer of the blood cells, while lymphoma is a blood cancer that develops in the lymphatic system. Unlike most forms of cancer, these cannot be treated by removing a tumor.

That does not mean there is no way to get rid of them. Depending on the type of cancer and the patient’s condition, treatments for these cancers can be very successful.

It takes a dedicated team of multidisciplinary professionals to treat blood cancers. The Martin O’Neil Cancer Center is equipped to provide you and your family with the comprehensive and compassionate care you need during this time.


Leukemia is cancer that forms in the blood-forming tissues. It often forms in the bone marrow and lymph nodes and crowds out the healthy cells there. It is most common in adults over 55 years old, but it is also the most common cancer in children below the age of 15.

There are two classifications of leukemia depending on how it progresses:

  • Acute leukemia: A rapid form of leukemia, patients with this type will have symptoms that get worse very quickly. It is important to take an aggressive treatment to this type of leukemia as early as possible.
  • Chronic leukemia: This form of leukemia develops more gradually. They may even function normally for some time and can go undiagnosed for years. As with all cancers, treatment should begin as soon as the cancer is detected.

Some symptoms of leukemia include persistent fatigue, recurring nosebleeds, swollen lymph nodes, frequent infections and excessive sweating.

Because surgery is not a viable treatment, oncologists have to rely on treatment methods that destroy cancer cells. Options may include chemotherapy, radiation therapy and targeted therapy. Stem cell transplants may also be recommended to restore the bone marrow that was destroyed by cancer.


Blood cancers that develop in the lymphatic system are called lymphomas. The lymphatic system is a network of vessels that remove toxins and waste from the body. These unwanted materials are taken to the lymph nodes, which contain white blood cells that fight off the infections. Lymphatic cancers interfere with the production of white blood cells which causes damage to the body’s immune system.

There are two main types of lymphomas:

  • Hodgkin lymphoma: This is one of the most curable forms of cancer. What separates this lymphoma from others is the presence of Reed-Sternberg cells. The most common symptoms of this cancer is a lump in the neck, groin or under the arm. It can also cause fever and night sweats. Chemotherapy, radiation therapy or immunotherapy is usually all it takes to treat this cancer.
  • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL): There are many different types of NHL. They can manifest in various lymph nodes throughout the body. People with immune deficiencies, autoimmune disease and who frequently suffer chronic infections are most susceptible to NHL. Treatment may involve chemotherapy, immunotherapy, targeted therapy and radiation therapy. Some patients may also enter palliative care for help managing the symptoms.

We are here for you and your family

Learning that you or a loved one has a blood cancer can feel overwhelming. Do not take what you read online at face value. The important thing now is to visit with a medical specialist and start discussing your options. Everyone responds to cancer differently, so your best resource for information is the care team that has shown the best effort to help you treat and manage cancer.