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Leukemia – Treatments

Leukemia is a malignant type cancer of the bone marrow and blood. It is defined by the uncontrolled accumulation of blood cells.  They are not able to carry out the normal functions of blood cells.

The goal of treatment for leukemia is to bring about a complete remission. Unlike other types of cancer, leukemia is not a solid tumor that a doctor can surgically remove. The source of the problem is in the bone marrow, and bone marrow cannot be removed.

Treatment for leukemia is complex, depending on many factors including age and overall health, the type of leukemia, and whether it has spread toother parts of the body.

1. Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL)
If you have ALL, you will need chemotherapy. For the first round of chemotherapy (called induction), you may need to stay in the hospital for 3 – 6 weeks. Later you may get chemotherapy on an outpatients basis (living at home and going to clinic to receive your treatments). Read further about chemo side effects if you are interested and need a good forum.  If you have a low blood cell count, you may need to be placed in a room by yourself so you do not catch an infection.

2. Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML)

Your doctor may want to keep you away from other people to prevent infection, that’s why you need to do chemotherapy. Other treatments for AML may include:
* Antibiotics to treat infection
* Bone marrow transplant or stem cell transplant after radiation and chemotherapy
* Red blood cell transfusions to fight anemia
* Transfusions of platelets to control bleeding

3. Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL)

For most patients with early stage CLL, no treatment is started. However, these people must be closely watched by their doctor. But if somehow the chromosome test indicate a more high risk type of leukimia, treatment may be started earlier.
* Infections keep coming back
* Leukemia is growing rapidly.
* Low blood counts (anemia and thrombocytopenia (low platelet count) are present
* Fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss, or night sweats occur

4. Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML)

Imatinib (Gleevec) is the first-line therapy for everyone with CML. Gleevec is a pill, taken by mouth. New medications similiar to Gleevec include dasatinib (Sprycel) and nilotinib (Tasigna). Sometimes a chemotherapy medicine called hydroxyurea (Hydrea) is used temporarily to reduce the white blood cell count if it is very high at diagnosis. Actually, the only known cure for CML is a bone marrow transplant or stem cell transplant. You should discuss your options in detail with your oncologist.


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