Leukemia Health (cont.)

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Leukemia Medications

Numerous chemotherapy and biological drug combinations may be prescribed by an oncologist. Which type and combination of therapy depends on many factors including the type and stage of leukemia, whether treating adult or childhood leukemia, ability to tolerate chemotherapy side effects, and if any previous treatment for the leukemia has occurred. Oncologists often work together regionally to decide which combination of chemotherapy and biological drugs are currently working best for their patients. Because of this, the drug combinations often vary and are able to change rapidly when improved results occur.

Leukemia Surgery

Surgery is generally not used to treat leukemia. Occasionally, a person with leukemia that has spread to the spleen has the spleen removed. This is usually done only if the spleen is so large that it is causing problems for nearby organs.

Leukemia Other Therapy

While alternative therapies, such as supplements, herbs, and body therapies, are not recommended as a replacement for medical treatment in leukemia, they may be considered complementary therapies.

The following therapies have proponents but no scientific evidence of unequivocal benefit:

  • Acupuncture
  • Coenzyme Q10
  • Polysaccharide K

Alternative or complementary therapies should be discussed with the treating specialist. These therapies are not offered in conjunction with chemotherapy for leukemia because of the lack of definitive data to support their use.

Leukemia Follow-up

After completion of treatment, the diagnostic studies are repeated to see how the treatment has affected the leukemia. Many people have a reduction or even a disappearance of leukemia cells in their blood and bone marrow. This is called remission.

  • If the patient is in remission, his or her medical team watches the patient carefully over time for signs that the leukemia is coming back. In certain very high risk patients, who are likely to relapse despite a seeming remission, stem cell transplantation may follow induction therapy.
  • If the initial treatment does not cause remission, the doctor discusses alternate treatment plans, perhaps with new agents undergoing testing.

Another factor to be addressed may be impaired organ function secondary to therapy. Careful follow-up on any patient who has received extensive therapy, such as stem cell transplantation, should include careful systemic evaluations in order to initiate corrective measures should any organ impairment be detected.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/13/2012

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