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What are the treatment options for Leukemia?

Updated on September 26, 2014

What is Leukemia?

Leukemia is a type of cancer. This type of cancer affects the bone marrow which is where blood cells are created. Leukemia happens when the cells become abnormal and do not die off. They also start to replicate themselves. The treatment options will depend on many factors including but not limited to: the type of leukemia you have, your age, and whether or not the leukemia cells are found in your cerebrospinal fluid.

What types of Leukemia exist?

There are four main types of leukemia. The first one is called acute lymphoblastic leukemia. There is also acute myeloid leukemia, chronic lymphocytic leukemia and chronic myeloid leukemia.

Chronic leukemia indicates that the patient has on-going symptoms that gradually become worse over a slower period of time. Acute leukemia progresses at a faster pace and the cells tend to replicate faster than compared to chronic leukemia.

What changes in the body occur with leukemia?

When becoming afflicted with leukemia, there will be differences in your body that you will start to notice. Due to the lower count of normal blood cells, this makes it harder for your body to fight infections, stop bleeding and can also cause anemia. Symptoms of these issues vary. You may notice fatigue, pale skin color, labored breathing, easy bruising and difficulty with getting bleeding to cease, even on small cuts.

The abnormal leukemia cells don’t just stay in the bone marrow, but can travel to other locations in the body. Some other well-known hiding spots are the spleen and the lymph glands or lymph nodes. There would be significant swelling and tenderness in these areas if affected.

Types of Treatments

  • Watchful Waiting
  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted Therapy
  • Radiation Therapy
  • Stem-Cell Transplants

What are the types of Treatment?

There are many types of treatment available and some of them can be used in conjunction with one another. This all depends on what type of leukemia you have. Watchful waiting is a treatment option for someone who is not having obvious symptoms and may have the chronic type of leukemia. This treatment is to wait and watch for the symptoms, so as to delay any side effects of other treatments. Regular checks-ups are suggested during this time, so as to make sure that the cancer is not progressing too quickly.

Chemotherapy is a treatment that is used to kill all types of leukemia. This is normally delivered via a pill or intravenously. If the leukemia is affecting the brain or spinal cord, then it may have to be delivered as a method known as intrathecal chemotherapy. This is normally delivered through the spinal cord or under the scalp.

Targeted therapy are drugs that are known to block the growth of leukemia cells. If you have chronic myeloid leukemia or acute lymphoid leukemia, you may carry the Philadelphia chromosome. If this is the case, this therapy may benefit you greatly. The delivery of this treatment would be in pill form.

For people who have chronic lymphoid leukemia, they may also receive targeted therapy, but in the form of intravenously.

Radiation therapy is sometimes used in conjunction with chemotherapy. Delivery of this treatment is via a radiation machine. You will lay on a table which then goes inside of a machine. This machine will aim the radiation at which ever part of the body may be affected. This is also a treatment used before stem-cell transplants.

Stem-cell transplants are a treatment used as well for leukemia. The most common types of transplants are bone marrow and peripheral blood stem cell transplants.

How is leukemia diagnosed?

There are numerous ways to test for leukemia. One common and simple way is to do a blood test. Other options include a bone marrow biopsy, cell and chromosome analysis, lumbar puncture, and sometimes chest x-rays. The types of testing are determined on what type of leukemia the doctor might think you have and also depending on how far they think the cancer may have progressed.

Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Discuss Treatment Options



No matter what type of leukemia you or your loved one may have, there are multiple treatment options. The outlook for leukemia survivors is a pretty good percentage as every 8 out of 10 people survive leukemia. Our technological advances in Science has brought us much so much closer to helping people with leukemia as well as other types of cancers and diseases.

Below you can find links where I found most of the information. Feel free to click on any of the links to find more information.


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    • Autumn McNeil profile imageAUTHOR

      Autumn McNeil 

      4 years ago from Tucson, Az


      You are welcome and no, not from personal experience. :) I have many friends who have had to go through these processes and that saddens my heart as it can't be an easy journey.

    • lafleurdeplume profile image

      Sarah LaFleur 

      4 years ago from Chicago-land

      I hope your knowledge source isn't from a personal battle... thank you for sharing this information.


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