Leukemia & Lymphoma
Expert and compassionate leukemia and lymphoma treatment
A leukemia or lymphoma diagnosis can leave you feeling overwhelmed, and you might not be sure where to go for answers. We’re here to help answer your questions and create the most advanced, personalized treatment plan with you in mind.
At HealthPartners and Park Nicollet, we approach cancer treatment by understanding the impact it has both physically and mentally. We offer you the latest in advanced treatment and integrative therapies to help reduce the side effects of treatment.
Our team of board-certified oncologists, hematologists and other specialists work together to help you through diagnosis, treatment and recovery. With state-of-the-art cancer centers, leading specialists and ongoing research and clinical trials, we’re here to support you every step of the way.
What is leukemia?
Leukemia is a blood cancer that affects your immune system’s ability to function properly. Leukemia attacks white blood cells found in your bone marrow. White blood cells play a crucial role in regulating your immune system. Someone with leukemia develops abnormal white blood cells, called leukemic cells. As leukemic cell growth continues, your marrow must fight harder to create red blood cells and platelets. Over time, red blood cells and platelets get crowded out.
There are four types of leukemia:
- Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML)
- Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL)
- Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)
- Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML)
Symptoms of leukemia
Many of the signs and symptoms of leukemia are similar to other conditions such as the flu or an infection. If you experience persistent or recurring fevers, chills, fatigue and night sweats, we recommend making an appointment with one of our
Anytime you have new or unusual symptoms that you are concerned about or are getting worse, you should consult with one of our primary care doctors. Our primary care doctors can diagnose hundreds of conditions and can help you get the answers you need quickly. If your care requires additional expertise, we’ll connect you directly with one of our oncologists.
What is lymphoma?
Lymphoma is a blood cancer that targets your lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is a broad network of lymph nodes and vessels found throughout your body that produce immune cells, regulate toxins and keep your body healthy. The most common symptoms of lymphoma include the swelling of lymph nodes found in the neck, armpits or groin.
Because you have lymph nodes throughout your body, this cancer can originate anywhere. Over time, it can spread to other parts of the body using the lymphatic system as a highway.
The two main types of lymphoma are:
- Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL)
Symptoms of lymphoma
Symptoms of Hodgkin’s and Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma will vary. But in general, here are the most common symptoms for both:
- Difficulty breathing or chest pain
- Excessive night sweating
- One or many swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpits, or groin area
- Ongoing fatigue
- Sudden weight loss of 10 pounds or more
- Unexplained lump in the neck, armpit or groin
If you haven’t talked to a doctor about your symptoms yet, consider starting with one of our
Diagnosing leukemia and lymphoma
Common tests used to diagnose leukemia and lymphoma include:
A blood test looks at the levels of different cells and proteins in the blood. While blood tests aren’t always used to diagnose leukemia or lymphoma, they can give us more information about the stage of cancer and later, how you’re responding to treatment. During a blood test, we’ll draw a small amount of blood and examine it in our lab.
During a biopsy, a small amount of tissue is removed so it can be examined under a microscope. There are different types of biopsies, including needle biopsies and excisional biopsies. Our doctors will choose the most minimally-invasive biopsy that will provide an accurate diagnosis. We’ll also use local or general anesthesia to keep you comfortable during the procedure. We’ll talk to you about whether a biopsy is necessary.
Sometimes, imaging tests are needed to look for tumors or other indications of cancer. These non-invasive tests create images of the inside of your body. Common imaging tests used to diagnose leukemia and lymphoma include MRIs, PET scans, X-rays and CT scans. Imaging tests are also used to determine how you’re responding to treatment.
We might recommend a bone scan if you feel pain in your bones. During a bone scan, we’ll inject a small, safe amount of a radioactive medicine into your bloodstream so bones will show up on the scan. This is a non-invasive test that enables us to see if there’s any change to your bones.
Treatment options for leukemia and lymphoma
Cancer research has shown that each person’s response to cancer treatment is unique. No two treatment plans are exactly the same. That’s why we work closely with you to create a personalized treatment plan unique to you. Depending on what type of leukemia or lymphoma you have, you might need a combination of treatments to achieve the best results. Common treatments may include:
Chemotherapy, often called “chemo,” is a treatment used to kill cancer cells throughout the entire body. This is often the main treatment option for blood cancers and can be paired with radiation. If chemotherapy is the right treatment option for you, we’ll answer all your questions and let you know what to expect.
Radiation therapy is used to treat and manage cancer in affected areas of the body by using beams of intense energy to kill or slow the growth of cancer cells. Unlike normal cells, cancer cells can’t heal damage caused by radiation. Radiation therapy is rarely used on its own to treat leukemia and lymphoma. It’s almost always paired with chemotherapy.
This treatment can isolate and change specific behaviors within cancer cells, like stopping their growth, killing cancer cells or blocking chemical signals within the cells. Because targeted therapy attacks cancer cells, it does less damage to normal, healthy cells than chemotherapy.
Also called biotherapy, this relatively new treatment practice heightens your body’s natural immune response to cancer with the use of medicines. Some types of immunotherapy use manufactured antibodies that directly attack cancer cells to remove them from your blood and bone marrow while ignoring healthy cells.
Stem cell transplant (bone marrow transplant)
Stem cell transplant (SCT), also known as a bone marrow transplant, use stem cells to help rebuild healthy bone marrow. Usually, stem cells are taken from blood. Sometimes, we can extract stem cells from the patient’s own blood, but a donor is often needed. Donors are often a sibling or other close relative, but a donor doesn’t have to be related.
Our cancer care services
During your cancer treatment, we help make sure that you and your family feel as comfortable and supported as possible. To do this, we offer a wide range of services as part of personalized treatment plans, including:
Integrative therapies are supporting treatments some people choose to have in addition to their cancer treatments. They’re used to reduce the side effects of cancer treatments and improve your overall emotional and spiritual well-being. Common types of integrative therapies include massage, healing touch, reflexology, music therapy and acupuncture.
Palliative care helps improve the quality of life for people with advanced stages of cancer. Palliative care works alongside medical care to keep you comfortable and provide additional support. Our specialized palliative care team works closely with our oncology department so the support you need during your illness is easily accessible. Our palliative care team will help you understand your treatments, do daily activities, coordinate communication with your doctor and can perform other services to help support you and your family.
Good nutrition is needed to support the increased demands on your body while you heal. The benefits include preserving muscle mass, a healthy immune system, fewer complications and a better quality of life. We’ll recommend different nutrition guidelines to you depending on your type of cancer, stage of cancer or treatment plan. Our registered nutritionists can provide nutrition counseling to help with managing weight changes, dealing with side effects of treatment and navigating nutrition recommendations.
Cancer develops by chance, but people with a family history of cancer might be at a higher risk. It’s possible to have a gene mutation that can be passed from generation to generation. A genetic counselor can meet with you to go over your personal or family history of cancer and help you understand your hereditary risks. If you have questions about genetic counseling, or want to know if genetic counseling is right for you, please ask your care team.
Cancer can change the way your body functions. What used to be easy might become more difficult because of fatigue, joint pain, stiffness, weakness, numbing or swelling. Some people might even develop difficulty thinking, balancing, speaking or swallowing. Cancer
We provide a specialty pharmacy that’s staffed by pharmacists who are experts in cancer medications. Because our pharmacy is fully integrated with our cancer treatment centers, our pharmacists are able to work closely with your treatment team. This helps to make sure you get the special medications you need to treat and manage cancer. Our team will help you understand the cost of your medication and help you with your insurance.
The Accreditation Commission for Health Care (ACHC) has recognized us as a specialty pharmacy with a Distinction in Oncology.
Home care and hospice
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
Leukemia and lymphoma are both types of blood cancers. The main difference between the two is the parts of the body they can affect. Leukemia affects bone marrow. Lymphoma, like its name suggests, affects the lymph nodes.
Many different board-certified doctors, nurses, technologists and other medical professionals will work with you to make sure you’re getting the care you need during every step of your journey. Our care team is here to help you navigate your treatment, with help scheduling your appointments, managing your treatments while supporting you and your loved ones throughout your treatment process.
Depending on your treatment plan, you might work with:
- Hematologist – A doctor who specializes in treating blood and bone marrow conditions.
- Medical oncologist – A doctor who specializes in using medications, like chemotherapy, to treat and manage cancer.
- Radiation oncologist – A doctor who specializes in treating cancer with radiation.
- Oncology nurses - Our nurses help you with your treatments, managing side effects and therapies.
Yes, many of our patients are able to participate in clinical trials if they meet the requirements. Take a look at our current clinical trials and learn more about our ongoing cancer research.
We accept most health insurance plans, including Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, CIGNA, HealthPartners, Medica, Medicare, PreferredOne and many others.
Not sure what your insurance covers? Call the number on the back of your card for help looking at your options.
Don’t have your card in front of you? Here are member services numbers to help you get started:
- Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota:
800-244-6224(insurance through work); 866-494-2111(insurance directly or through the Exchange)
763-847-4477(in the Twin Cities); 800-997-1750(outside the metro area)
- United Healthcare: