Leukemia Treatment

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Published: 10th May 2013
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Treatment for Leukemia depends upon the spread and type of Leukemia. Doctors first determine the stage and type of Leukemia through different tests including physical examination, blood tests, biopsy and spinal tap. Some patients may be treated with one method of treatment, while other may need combination of more than one method of treatment. Leukemia may be of mainly two types – Lymphocytic Leukemia and Myelogenous Leukemia.
Lymphocytic Leukemia starts from young white cells known as “lymphoblasts” or “lymphocytes” in the blood marrow. It could be either acute or chronic depending on; it starts from young cells or mature cells. Myelogenous Leukemia starts from myeloid cells. It could be acute or chronic depending on the cells it starts from. There are several types of Myelogenous Leukemia. The method of treatment is primarily decided after determining that Leukemia is lymphocytic or myelogenous and whether it is acute or chronic. Acute Leukemia spreads faster, whereas chronic Leukemia spreads slowly.

Methods of Treatment for Leukemia
There are various methods to treat Leukemia depending on its spread and the body organs affected by it. Surgery, radiation therapy, biologic therapy, chemotherapy and bone marrow transplant are used for treatment of Leukemia. Doctor may use one of them or a mix of more than one method for treatment after assessing requirement of patient.
Spleen is enlarged in chronic Leukemia due to accumulation of Leukemia cells. It collects them and as a result gets infected and enlarges. Doctor may remove spleen through surgery to treat chronic Leukemia. It is done to avoid complications arising due to an enlarged spleen.
Other method of treatment of Leukemia is chemotherapy. Leukemia cells develop in blood cells or bone marrow and easily move into blood stream. This could affect many organs of the body. To prevent further damage by Leukemia cells, chemotherapy is used. Chemo drugs are given to patients of Leukemia to kill cancer cells or prevent them from dividing further. Chemotherapy can be given by many ways such as pills or IV infusions. Doctors decide type of chemotherapy given to the patient of Leukemia on the basis of the stage and type of Leukemia.
Chemotherapy may many side effects such as hair loss, poor appetite, nausea and vomiting, diarrhoea, or mouth and lip sores. Most of the side effects last till the duration of treatment. As a side effect of chemotherapy healthy blood cells count may decrease causing infections, easy bruising or bleeding. Doctor may readjust dosages of chemo drugs in this case.
Radiation Therapy
Radiation therapy is also used for treatment of Leukemia. Radiations are used to kill cancer cells and to shrink or remove tumors. It is given on the affected part through internal or external radiation therapy. There may be some short term side effects, which can subside with time. It could also cause some permanent side effects, depending on the area, where it has been used.
Biologic Therapy
In biologic therapy substances made by the body or made in a laboratory are used to boost or restore the body’s natural defences system. By redirecting body’s own defence or immune system, it is possible stop division of cancerous cells in specific cases of Leukemia.
Hematopoietic Cells or Bone Marrow Transplant
A hematopoietic or bone marrow transplant is also used to treat Leukemia. Normal marrow production, which has been destroyed by chemotherapy or radiation therapy are replaced in this process. Doctors may use patients own stem cells saved before treatment, for transplant. This is known as autologous transplant. Other method of transplant is allogeneic transplant or use of stem cells donated by someone else for transplant. Stem cells donated by identical twin are also used for transplant known as syngeneic transplant.
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