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Leukemia Treatment

Leukemia is the most common type of cancer in children and adolescents ages 0 to 19 years, accounting for 27 percent of all types of cancer occurring among children and adolescents younger than 20 years (Leukemia). This startling fact raises the question, how are all of these victims treated for their disease? The goal of treatment for leukemia is to destroy the leukemia cells and allow normal cells to form in your bone marrow (Leukemia-Treatment Overview). Most people dont seem to understand that many parts of the appearance of patients are effects from the cancer treatment, not the cancer itself. As of now, the only way to cure this cancer is to kill your healthy blood cells along with the cancer cells. We need to change this fact.

One of the image above is of leukemia cells together with blood cells. Leukemia is a cancer of the blood system or bone marrow described as the irregular growth of undeveloped white blood cells. Leukemia had two different forms, chronic and acute. Chronic leukemia has the buildup of mature, but abnormal, white blood cells and progresses slowly. Acute leukemia is the increase in the number of immature blood cells that progresses rapidly. Treatment for this cancer is very complex and there are many different types of treatment for patients. Because leukemia is a cancer of the blood, surgery alone will not be able to get rid of it. Today, the most common and successful are chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and stem cell transplants.

Chemotherapy The only way to kill cancer is to kill the cancer cells in your blood. The most effective way of treatment for leukemia is through chemotherapy. This is when anticancer drugs are injected into your bloodstream and is given in cycles. During chemotherapy, you'll be given potent drugs that must be toxic enough to damage or kill leukemic cells (Disease Information & Support). The drugs are given into a vein or by mouth or put into the fluid around the brain and spine. Usually the drugs for chemotherapy are given in three stages: induction, consolidation, and maintenance. Induction is where the doctors try to kill all of the cancer cells in the blood and bone marrow. During consolidation, the goal is to kill leukemia cells that dont show up on tests. Doctors want to make sure that the patient doesnt relapse and the cells regrow. And last, maintenance is to prevent any leukemia

cells from growing. Chemotherapy drugs are given in much lower doses during this stage. You may always wonder why some cancer patients lose their hair and become bald. The drugs used in chemotherapy are the substances that affect patients with hair loss not only in the scalp, but potentially everywhere on the body. Other side affects include mouth sores, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, greater chance of infection, easy bruising or bleeding, and tiredness (Chemotherapy for Acute Myeloid Leukemia).

Radiation Radiation therapy uses high doses of radiation, such as X-rays, to destroy cancer cells. Just like chemotherapy, unfortunately, healthy cells will be killed as well. Radiation therapy is usually given to the patient by a machine that focuses a radiation beam on the body parts being treated. The most common machine used is called a cobalt or linear accelerator (Radiation Therapy for Blood-Related Cancers). Cancer cells are growing actively, which means that radiation can usually stop them. Radiation changes the genetic code in a cell that tells the cell how to grow and multiply (Radiation Therapy for Blood-Related Cancers). Cancer cells are only affected on the part of the body being treated by the machine. Radiation can also be given through needles, seeds, wires, or catheters. These are examples of where radiation is given inside the body. The way that radiation is given depends on the type and stage of leukemia being treated.

Stem Cell Transplants Firstly, stem cells are immature cells produced in the bone marrow that make more stem cells, red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.. Stem cells can be found in the bone marrow and the circulating bloodstream (Leukemia Stem Cell Transplantation). A stem cell transplant is a process where stem cells are taken from a matching donor and transplanted into the bloodstream and bone marrow. This process that uses stem cells donated by someone else is called allogeneic transplants. Cancer cells are, again, meant to be destroyed in the body. The transferred blood marrow starts to grow and make new blood cells. The donated cells can rebuild the supply of normal cells and the immune system. The side effects are very similar to those that are produced from chemotherapy. The process of stem cell transplants is very expensive and requires a longer time for treatment and care than the other two methods, so this option is not as popular.

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