Treatment for leukemia aims to kill leukemia cells and promote production of healthy cells in the bone marrow. The treatment of leukemia may vary depending on the type and stage of the disease as well as a patient’s age and overall health.
Treatment for Acute LeukemiaChemotherapy for Leukemia
Chemotherapy is the main treatment for acute leukemia and it involves use of drugs to destroy cancer cells. There are three stages of chemotherapy. Induction is the first step to reducing the number of leukemia cells. Its goal is remission of leukemia. Induction uses high doses of strong chemotherapeutic drugs administered for period of time that may range from one week to a month. The duration of using induction chemotherapy depends on the type of leukemia. After the treatment, body produces new blood cells for several weeks. The second stage of chemotherapy is consolidation. Consolidation aims to reach complete remission of leukemia. It is given to destroy the cancer cells that might have left even if the tests didn’t find any of them. Usually, the same drugs used in induction stage are given during consolidation stage. However, the doses and schedule are commonly altered and chemo drugs may be administered in 5-day cycles covering the period of 1 to 3 months. Maintenance is the third stage of chemotherapy for acute leukemia. It aims to minimize the risk of relapse. Lower doses of drugs are given during 2 to 3 years. Maintenance is commonly used for acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
If acute leukemia metastasizes to the spinal cord and brain the treatment used is called intrathecal chemotherapy where the drugs are injected to the spinal cord. Also, in this case a patient may receive radiation therapy.
Stem Cell TransplantThis can be used as initial treatment for those with high-risk acute leukemia. Stem cell transplant aims to kill all the cells in the bone marrow and replace them with normal cells. Most commonly, stem cells are received from a donor. Before stem cell transplant, a patient receives chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
Treatment for Chronic Leukemia Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is usually not treated in early stages but it tends to get worse very slowly and a doctor will commonly choose careful monitoring before giving any treatment. Chronic leukemia can be treated with stem cell transplant, biological therapy and radiation therapy. Biological therapy aims to improve the immune system to attack leukemia cells. It is achieved with the help of special drugs such as, monoclonal antibody. Radiation therapy uses x-rays to destroy leukemia cells and to shrink swollen lymph nodes or swollen spleen if needed.