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What Are the Treatments for Leukemia?
Leukemia is a form of cancer that affects blood-forming tissues like the bone marrow. Common forms of the condition include chronic lymphocytic leukemia, acute myeloid leukemia, and lymphoblastic leukemia.
People with slowing-growing forms of leukemia often do not have any symptoms, while those with the rapidly growing types often find themselves dealing with symptoms like frequent infections, weight loss, and fatigue.
There are various approaches to treating leukemia and the treatment recommended typically depends on factors like the type of leukemia the patient is dealing with, their health status, age, and if the disease has already spread to the cerebrospinal fluid. The specific characteristic of a patient’s leukemia can be examined in a lab to determine the best treatment course.
Treatment options for people with leukemia
Here are some of the common treatment options an oncologist might recommend for patients with leukemia:
This approach involves using medication to kill cancer cells. The medication can be taken orally or delivered with an intravenous line or catheter. Chemotherapy sometimes involves using more than one type of drug to treat the patient. This approach is called combination chemotherapy.
In some cases, the medication used for chemotherapy is administered directly to the cerebrospinal fluid. This allows the doctor to treat leukemia in the spinal column or brain.
The side effects associated with chemotherapy include an increased risk of infection due to white blood cells being damaged by the treatment, vomiting, nausea, loss of appetite, hair loss, bleeding easily, and fatigue. In rare cases, chemotherapy can damage the testes or ovaries, leading to infertility.
2. Biological therapy
This approach uses synthetic versions of living organisms, substances that come from living organisms, or living organisms. The treatment helps the patient’s immune system to recognize abnormal cells that are developing and attack them.
Biological therapy for leukemia might include using cytokines, tumor vaccines, or antibodies to target cancer cells. For example, a monoclonal antibody like alemtuzumab targets the CD53 antigen, which is a protein that keeps lymphocytic leukemia cells alive.
Biological therapy tends to lead to fewer side effects than other treatment options like chemotherapy. Side effects might include swelling at the site of the IV infusion, a rash, muscle aches, fever, or fatigue.
3. Targeted therapy
This treatment for leukemia involves using drugs that are designed to interfere with specific functions of cancer cells instead of killing rapidly growing cells indiscriminately as is the case with chemotherapy. It leads to less damage being done to healthy cells in the area. This treatment focuses more on stopping cancer cells from growing rather than destroying them. The use of antibodies to treat leukemia can be viewed as targeted therapy.
Targeted therapy is typically administered via an injection or a pill. The side effects include bloating, weight gain, nausea, vomiting, muscle cramps, and swelling.
Radiation uses high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells. It might be used to treat cases of leukemia that have reached the brain. The side effects often vary based on where the treatment is administered, and it can include vomiting, tender skin, and diarrhea.
Get the treatment you need
There are multiple treatment options available if you are dealing with leukemia. Call us or stop by our Marlton office to set up an appointment with an oncologist.
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