Learn enough about leukemia to make decisions about your own treatment

Leukemia is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow, and being diagnosed with leukemia can be devastating, especially for families of newly diagnosed patients. But after a diagnosis, you will gradually find ways to cope with the pain and uncertainty that cancer brings. The following strategies and resources can help you successfully complete treatment.

How Leukemia Forms:

It is generally believed that leukemia occurs when the genetic material, or DNA, of certain blood cells changes (mutates). A cell’s DNA contains instructions for how the cell behaves. Normally DNA instructs cells to grow at a set rate and die at a set time. In leukemia, mutations instruct blood cells to continue growing and dividing.

When this happens, blood cell production gets out of control. Over time, these abnormal cells may crowd out healthy blood cells in the bone marrow, causing a decrease in healthy white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets, causing the signs and symptoms of leukemia.

Types of leukemia

The main types of leukemia include:

1. Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). This is the most common type of leukemia in young children. But adults can also develop ALL.

2. Acute myeloid leukemia (AML). AML is a common form of leukemia that occurs in both children and adults. AML is the most common type of acute leukemia in adults.

3. Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Even with CLL, the most common form of chronic adult leukemia, you may feel fine for many years without treatment.

4. Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). This type of leukemia mainly affects adults. People with CML may have few or no symptoms for months or years before the leukemia cells enter a rapid growth phase.

5. Other types. Other rarer types of leukemia also exist, including hairy cell leukemia, myelodysplastic syndromes, and myeloproliferative disorders.


The symptoms of leukemia vary depending on the type of leukemia. Common signs and symptoms of leukemia include:

· Fever or chills

· Persistent fatigue and weakness

· or severe infection

· Unexpected weight loss

· Enlarged lymph nodes, liver or spleen

· Bleeding or bruising easily

· Frequent nosebleeds

· Small red spots (petechiae) on the skin

· Excessive sweating, especially at night

· Bone pain or tenderness

leukemia treatment options

Treatment of leukemia depends on many factors. Doctors determine leukemia treatment options based on age and overall health, the type of leukemia you have and whether it has spread to other parts of the body, including the central nervous system.

Common treatment options used to fight leukemia include:

1. Chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is the main treatment for leukemia. This drug treatment uses chemicals to kill leukemia cells.

Depending on the type of leukemia you have, you may need to be treated with a single drug or a combination of drugs. These medications may come in pill form or may be administered directly into a vein.

2. Targeted therapy. Targeted drug treatments specifically target specific abnormalities present in cancer cells. Targeted drug treatments can kill cancer cells by blocking these abnormalities. Your doctor may test leukemia cells to see if targeted treatments can help you.

3. Radiotherapy. Radiation therapy uses X-rays or other high-energy beams to destroy leukemia cells and stop them from growing. During radiation therapy, you lie on a treatment table while a large machine moves around you and delivers beams of energy, delivering precise shots to specific areas of the body.

The radiation may be given only to specific areas of the body where leukemia cells have accumulated, or the whole body may be irradiated. Radiation therapy may be used to prepare for a bone marrow transplant.

4. Bone marrow transplantation. A bone marrow transplant, also known as a stem cell transplant, helps restore healthy stem cells by replacing unhealthy bone marrow with leukemia-free stem cells that can regenerate healthy bone marrow.

Before receiving a bone marrow transplant, you will need to receive very high doses of chemotherapy or radiation therapy to destroy the bone marrow that causes leukemia. You will then receive an infusion of blood stem cells to help rebuild the bone marrow.

5. Immunotherapy. Immunotherapy refers to using the immune system to fight cancer. Your body’s disease-fighting immune system may not be able to attack cancer because cancer cells produce proteins that evade immune system cells. Immunotherapy works by interfering with this process.

6. Use genetic engineering methods to enable immune cells to attack leukemia cells. A specialized treatment called chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-T cell therapy harvests your body’s antibacterial T cells, genetically engineers them to attack cancer cells, and then injects them back into your body. in vivo. CAR-T cell therapy can be used to treat certain types of leukemia.

7. Clinical trials. Clinical trials are studies used to test new cancer treatments and new ways of using existing treatments. Although clinical trials give you or your child a chance to try the latest cancer treatments, the benefits and risks of the treatments may be uncertain. Discuss the benefits and risks of clinical trials with your doctor.

Clinical Trials

Explore Mayo Clinic research testing new treatments, interventions and tests designed to prevent, detect, treat or manage this disease.

If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to see your doctor to get a diagnosis. Early diagnosis and treatment are critical to improving the chances of a successful outcome.