What is the treatment for Leukemia

Updated at: Feb 04, 2013
What is the treatment for Leukemia

Find out how what options does a patient have when luekaemia is on the prowl in the body,

Dr Poonam Sachdev
CancerWritten by: Dr Poonam SachdevPublished at: Feb 04, 2013

What is the treatment for Leukemia

Treatment for leukemia aims to destroy the leukemia cells and allow normal blood cells (red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets) to form in the bone marrow. There are many treatment options for patients with leukemia. The basic treatment options for leukemia are:

  • Chemotherapy.
  • Radiation Therapy.
  • Biologic Therapy.
  • Hematopoietic Cells or Bone Marrow Transplant.
  • Surgery.


[Read: Recognising the Signs of Leukaemia]


The treatment your doctor recommends will be based on factors such as:

  • Type of leukemia.
  • Stage of the disease.
  • Your age, general health and preferences.


Chemotherapy:  Chemotherapy is the most commonly used mode of treatment for leukemia. Chemotherapy involves the use of certain drugs to destroy or kill cancer cells or prevent the cells from dividing. During chemotherapy, you may be given a combination of two or more drugs. These medications may be given orally or through your veins (intravenously). The type of drug sued depends on the stage and type of leukemia.


[Read: Managing the Side Effects of Chemotherapy]


In most acute leukemia, drugs are given in stages:

  • Induction phase: This phase aims to kill leukemia cells in the blood and bone marrow and induce remission (stage in which there is no signs or symptoms of leukemia).
  • Consolidation phase: Treatment in this phase aims to kill any leukemia cells that may be present even though the tests are negative (as any remaining cells can grow and cause a relapse).
  • Maintenance phase: The aim of treatment in this phase is to prevent any remaining leukemia cells from growing. The dose of medications used during the maintenance phase is lower than the doses used during the induction or consolidation phase. This phase of treatment is used most often in people with ALL and seldom on people withof AML.


Intrathecal chemotherapy: If the leukemia spreads to the brain and spinal cord, standard chemotherapy cannot be done as the treatment cannot reach these areas. The way to give chemotherapy to these areas (brain and spinal cord) is known as intrathecal chemotherapy. During intrathecal chemotherapy, the drugs are injected directly into the spinal canal to attack any leukemia cells present there.


Radiation therapy: In radiation therapy or radiotherapy, high-powered energy beams such as X-rays are used to kill or destroy the cancer cells. External beam radiation (radiation is given by a machine outside your body) is mostly used to treat acute leukemia that has spread to the brain and the spinal cord.


[Read: A detail on how Radiation Therapy is done]


Stem cell transplant: Stem cell transplant aims to destroy all the cells present in the bone marrow (both the normal and leukemia cells) and then replace them with new normal cells. Before the transplant, the marrow is destroyed by the treatment through high doses of anticancer drugs or radiation. The cells that are used to replace the marrow may be autologous (the person’s own stem cells preserved before treatment), allogeneic (matched stem cells from another person) or syngeneic (stem cells donated by an identical twin).

Biologic Therapy: The treatment aims to improve your body's natural immune system to fight off cancer cells by using the knowledge that is specific to the cancer so as to eliminate it.

Surgery: In some types of chronic leukemia, the spleen is removed surgically. The spleen is an organ present in the abdomen, which collects leukemia cells and can enlarge. The leukemic cells can cause damage to the spleen and other complications.


Read more articles on Leukaemia




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