If your child has leukemia, your child’s doctors will recommend a combination of therapies. These can include chemotherapy, radiation therapy and stem cell transplantation.
Anti-cancer drugs, or chemotherapy, can be given to children intravenously, by mouth, directly into the spinal fluid or as a shot in the leg. These medicines are distributed throughout the body through the bloodstream. They can help kill cancer cells that are in the blood and bone marrow as well as those that may have spread to other areas.
Children with acute lymphocytic leukemia usually receive chemotherapy for two-and-a-half to three-and-a-half years. The first six months are quite intense with some hospitalizations and frequent visits to the doctor. Those with acute myelogenous leukemia usually receive chemotherapy for six to nine months, and all the therapy is given in the hospital. Researchers are studying new combinations of chemotherapy drugs in order to find the most effective combinations for different types of leukemia.
Leukemia can spread to other places in the body: the central nervous system or, in boys, the testicles. If there is evidence of leukemia in these areas, your child will receive chemotherapy and radiation therapy to the brain and spinal cord or the testicles. All patients with leukemia receive chemotherapy directly into the spinal fluid. This is to keep the leukemia from spreading there or treat the leukemia if it is already in the spinal fluid.
Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) childhood leukemia patients receive chemotherapy at Seattle Children’s, an SCCA parent organization.