Treatments for leukemia
As the various types of leukemias affect patients differently, their treatments depend on what type of leukemia they have. The type of treatment will also depend on the patient’s age and his state of health.
In order to get the most effective treatment the patient should get treatment at a center where doctors have experience and are well trained in treating leukemia patients. As treatment has improved, the aim of virtually all health care professionals should be complete remission – that the cancer goes away completely for a minimum of five years after treatment.
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Treatment for patients with acute leukemias should start as soon as possible – this usually involves induction therapy with chemotherapy, and takes place in a hospital.
When a patient is in remission he will still need consolidation therapy or post induction therapy. This may involve chemotherapy, as well as a bone marrow transplant (allogeneic stem cell transplantation).
If a patient has Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML) his treatment should start as soon as the diagnosis is confirmed. He will be given a drug, probably Gleevec (imatinib mesylate), which blocks the BCR-ABL cancer gene. Gleevec stops the CML from getting worse, but does not cure it. There are other drugs, such as Sprycel (dasatinib) and Tarigna (nilotinb), which also block the BCR-ABL cancer gene.
Patients who have not had success with Gleevec are usually given Sprycel and Tarigna. All three drugs are taken orally. A bone marrow transplant is the only current way of curing a patient with CML. The younger the patient is the more likely the transplant will be successful.
Patients with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL) may not receive any treatment for a long time after diagnosis. Those who do will normally be given chemotherapy or monoclonal antibody therapy. Some patients with CLL may benefit from allogeneic stem cell transplantation (bone marrow transplant).
All leukemia patients, regardless of what type they have or had, will need to be checked regularly by their doctors after the cancer has gone (in remission). They will undergo exams and blood tests. The doctors will occasionally test their bone marrow. As time passes and the patient continues to remain free of leukemia the doctor may decide to lengthen the intervals between tests.
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