Cancer of the tissues that form the blood cells is known as leukemia. There are different forms of leukemia. Depending upon the speed of development of the cancer and from where it originates, leukemia is classified into four main groups – acute lymphocytic or lymphoblastic leukemia, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, acute myeloid leukemia and chronic myeloid leukemia.
Cancer originating in the lymphoid cells is called lymphocytic leukemia. When the myeloid cells are affected by malignancy, the disease is classified as a myeloid leukemia. Acute leukemia, regardless of the cell it affects, develops rapidly, whereas chronic leukemia grows slowly.
Treatment for leukemia depends upon the type of cancer a person is suffering from. The treatment strategy varies from person to person. The most common treatment options for treating leukemia include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, biological therapy, targeted therapy and stem cell transplant.
Treatment Options For Treating Leukemia
Chemotherapy is the first line treatment for leukemia. The treatment involves use of toxic chemicals to kills the malignant cells in the body.
A wide range of chemotherapy drugs are used for treatment. Your oncologist may prescribe a single drug therapy or combination therapy for treating leukemia. The chemotherapy drugs are administered in the vein or taken orally.
Application of high-energy rays to kill the leukemia cells and inhibit their growth is the aim of radiation therapy. Radiation is applied to specific areas of the body where the leukemia cells have accumulated.
Biological therapy stimulates the immune system to fight leukemia. Two types of biological drugs are currently approved for treatment.
People diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, acute lymphocytic leukemia and acute myeloid leukemia are usually treatment with monoclonal antibodies, whereas interferon alfa is used for treating chronic myeloid leukemia. These drugs are injected to the patient.
Unlike chemotherapy and radiation therapy that damage the leukemia cells as well as the healthy cells of the body, leading to serious side effects, targeted therapy affects only the malignant cells. Cancer growth inhibitors used in the treatment target specific proteins in the leukemia cells, thereby preventing their ability to grow and multiply. These drugs are taken orally for treating chronic myeloid leukemia, acute lymphocytic leukemia and acute myeloid leukemia.
Stem Cell Transplant
In stem cell transplant, the diseased bone marrow from where the leukemia cells originate is replaced by the healthy bone marrow from a donor that closely matches the bone marrow of the leukemia patient.
Stem cell transplant is preceded by destruction of the bone marrow of the diseased person with radiation therapy and high dose chemotherapy. The healthy stem cells are then transferred, which start producing healthy cells within a short time.
Complementary medicine helps to attenuate the side effects of leukemia treatment and speeds up recovery. To prevent nutritional deficiency that severely impairs healing, high doses of vitamin and mineral supplements are recommended for leukemia patients undergoing treatment.
Anxiety and depression in leukemia patients can be treated with body-mind therapies such as yoga, meditation, deep breathing exercises and Tai Chi. Certain supplements are effective in killing the leukemia cells. Leukemia patients can take mistletoe extract. High doses of vitamin C may also help to fight leukemia by strengthening the body’s immune system.
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