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Radiation Therapy for Leukemia

June 10, 2008 - 7:30am
 
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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.

External Radiation

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

Sources:

National Cancer Institute

American Cancer Society

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

Bast R, et al. Cancer Medicine e5 . Hamilton, Ontario: B.C. Decker Inc.; 2000.



Last reviewed February 2003 by John Erban, MD

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 medical condition.

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