This page discusses the use of radiation therapy for the treatment of leukemia. For a thorough review of radiation therapy for cancer treatment, please see the
radiation therapy treatment monograph
Radiation therapy is the use of penetrating beams of high-energy waves or ionized particles to treat disease. Radiation therapy destroys the ability of cancer cells to grow and divide.
Radiation is generally not used in the treatment of acute leukemia. However, it may be given as preparation for a
bone marrow transplant
, to treat leukostasis syndromes, or to treat some cases of chronic leukemia.
In external radiation therapy, rays are directed at the tumor from outside the body. Doctors may recommend external radiation to treat chronic lymphoid leukemia or chronic myeloid leukemia in certain cases:
To decrease the size of a bulky spleen causing local symptoms
To treat leukostasis syndromes when the white count is very high at the time of diagnosis or relapse
Doses are given in small daily fractions, or occasionally twice a day if needed.
When to Contact Your Health Care Provider
Call the doctor if you develop any of the following:
Signs of infection, such as fever, cough, runny nose, red or swollen skin
Signs of abnormal bleeding
National Cancer Institute
American Cancer Society
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
Bast R, et al.
Cancer Medicine e5
. Hamilton, Ontario: B.C. Decker Inc.; 2000.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care
provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a
substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the
advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to
starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a