For many patients, their treatment is split into different phases. Each phase of your treatment will have a different aim – it might be to get rid of the leukaemia cells entirely, or it might be to consolidate any previous treatment, or it might be to maintain the low levels of leukaemia cells in your blood after initial treatment. Your healthcare team will discuss this with you before you start your treatment, but you can always ask them any questions at any point in your treatment if you’re not sure about something.
Below are some of the types of treatment you might have if you have leukaemia.
Chemotherapy is used to kill cells and stop them dividing. Although this type of treatment is aimed at the cancer cells, the treatment also affects normal cells which divide quickly, like the hair and gut. If you have chemotherapy, you will be given anti-cancer drugs. You might take a single drug or a combination of different drugs. Sometimes these will be given in your vein (intravenously) or sometimes you’ll need to take tablets. You’ll usually have several courses (sometimes called blocks or cycles) of chemotherapy during your treatment.
Sometimes, patients also take drugs called monoclonal antibodies alongside the chemotherapy drugs. These are artificial antibodies which can bind to and kill specific cells. Treatment using a combination of chemotherapy drugs and antibodies is called chemo-immunotherapy.
Stem cell transplants
In some people, leukaemia is best cured by having a stem cell transplant. This is where a patient receives chemotherapy to reduce the leukaemia in their bone marrow, then receives blood stem cells from another healthy individual (a donor).
As well as the active treatment you’ll receive to reduce the leukaemia, some patients also have a type of treatment called supportive care. Supportive care is treatment to reduce infections, provide blood and platelet transfusions, and, in some cases, medicines to reduce bruising and bleeding.
Some patients might also be put in touch with a palliative care team. They’re experts in managing your symptoms, improving your quality of life and helping you take care of your general health. They’re able to support both you and family members.
For more information about the treatment you might have for a specific type of leukaemia, choose a leukaemia from the drop down list.