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Treatments – Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia

The treatments used in for controlling acute lymphocytic leukemia are numerous and all provide different functions that can help an individual manage the condition and bring about remission. The goal of the treatment methods used for acute lymphocytic leukemia is to place the condition into permanent remission. In some cases, individuals with cases of acute lymphocytic leukemia in remission can experience relapse, meaning that the condition begins to affect the body again. Treatment of the condition is accomplished in two stages; induction therapy and post-induction therapy. Induction therapy is intended to kill as many of the cancerous cells as possible while allowing the blood counts to reach normal levels. Post-induction therapy helps the condition stay in remission and improves the quality of life of the patient.

The medications given to patients to treat acute lymphocytic leukemia can be taken by mouth or injected intravenously. In many cases, the individual is given a combination of medications, each geared to affect a certain aspect of acute lymphocytic leukemia. There are a number of medications that can be used in the treatment of the condition including cyclophosphamide, clofarabine, cytarabine, prednisone, methotrexate, vincristine, pegaspargase, mitoxantrone, imatinib mesylate, daunorubicin, and dexamethasone. Combining several of the medications for treatment can strengthen the effects of all of the medications used.

In some cases, acute lymphocytic leukemia can affect the lining of the brain and spinal cord, causing headaches, blurred vision, nausea, and vomiting. These cases require immediate treatment to save the life of the patient. When acute lymphocytic leukemia has affected the central nervous system, the medications needed to control the condition cannot be taken by mouth, but must be injected via a spinal tap. A spinal tap is an injection directly into the spinal fluid that surrounds the spinal cord. This allows the medication to flow directly to the areas that need them the most. Whether the medications are taken by mouth, by direct injection into the vein, or by spinal tap, they are all considered types of chemotherapy which is the primary treatment for acute lymphocytic leukemia.

Bone marrow transplantation is another technique that is sometimes used in the treatment of acute lymphocytic leukemia. This technique is used rarely in older adults because of the high risk of adverse side effects and complications associated with the treatment. Bone marrow transplantation is also very hard on the health of the patient and requires an extensive recovery period. For the technique to be effective, a suitable donor must be found, preferably someone directly related to the patient. In some cases, the patient’s body rejects the transplanted bone marrow tissue, which can cause life threatening complications. Whichever treatment is chosen to control the effects of acute lymphocytic leukemia on the body, the patient will require close monitoring to see whether the treatments are successful and whether the patient is experiencing any adverse side effects. Adverse side effects from the treatment of acute lymphocytic leukemia are usually very serious due to the strength of the medications used and the appearance of side effects from the treatment may require immediate hospitalization to preserve the health of the patient.

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