The treatment for leukemia consists of chemotherapy, radiation, biological therapy, and the use of antibiotics. There are different types of leukemia, and the treatment options vary accordingly.
More than 3,000 children in the U.S. are affected with leukemia every year and it is one of the most common cancer’s found in children. Leukemia in children is mostly caused due to a genetic disorder or chromosomal abnormality in the DNA. The term leukemia is used to describe cancer of the white blood cells. Most of us know white blood cells as protectors of our body against diseases and infections. Children affected with leukemia produce excess white blood cells (WBCs) in the bone marrow. These excess WBCs are defective and don’t serve any purpose.
Leukemias that affect lymphocytes are known as ‘lymphocytic’ and leukemias that affect the granulocytes are known as ‘myeloid’. It is further categorized as acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Other categories are acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). Some of the childhood leukemia symptoms are fever, shortness of breath, bone or joint pain and blue lumps on the stomach, neck or groin region. There are limited treatment options for the treatment of childhood leukemia, however there are some promising clinical trials underway.
Treatment for leukemia is divided into three parts, namely induction therapy, intensification therapy and maintenance therapy. The treatment options are chosen, according to the age of the child and the stage of the cancer. People undergoing leukemia treatment have to be monitored closely to check how they are reacting to the therapy. Cancer’s also have a high recurrence rate therefore closely monitoring the patient is important. Treatment for childhood leukemia consists of:
This is one of the most widely used treatment options, the drugs used during chemotherapy kill the cancerous cells. They also work by restricting the cancerous cells from dividing. Dosage and combination of drugs used during chemotherapy largely depends on the age and physical condition of the child. Medicines can be administered orally or intravenously for a systemic chemotherapy approach. Intrathecal chemotherapy is also used sometimes to prevent the cancer cells from invading the central nervous system (CNS).
Cancer treatments are intense and at times they can cause damage to other organs in the body. To protect the other organs oncologists use biological therapy. It mainly constitutes high doses of proteins and hormones that help protect the internal organs during cancer treatment. The hormones and proteins administered during biological therapy are naturally produced by the body but in low quantities. These medicines are specially manufactured by pharmaceutical companies for cancer treatments.
This therapy is used as a part of palliative care in the treatment of leukemia. Radiation therapy is the use of high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to restrict the growth of cancer cells or to kill the cancer cells. There are two types of radiation therapies – internal radiation and external radiation therapy. In internal therapy a radioactive substance is inserted into the cancerous region with the help of needles, catheters, etc. In eternal radiation therapy shaped radiation beams are aimed at the cancerous region with the help of hi-tech medical equipment.
Patients who are not able to make proteins that help the blood clot benefit by blood transfusions. This way they are able to get the plasma fluid in which blood cells are suspended. Patients not responding to antibiotic treatments also benefit from blood transfusions as they get the required white blood cells during the transfusion. Anemic children also benefit from this treatment as they are not able to produce their own red blood cells.
Treatment for leukemia in children also includes the use of antibiotics to treat the infections that may occur due to the disease. Treatment plans are based on the physical condition and the stage of the cancer and therefore are very personalized. It is advisable to consult your physician regarding treatment options.