Chemotherapy for ALL

young woman chemotherapy

Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. There are 3 stages of chemotherapy for ALL:

1.    Induction 

Intensive treatment using several chemotherapy drugs. The drugs will be given into a vein and maybe your spinal cord. This lasts several weeks and you will be in hospital for most of this time.

You will have a bone marrow biopsy afterwards, to see how well the treatment has worked. The aim is for the leukaemia to go into remission.

Remission

Remission is when your bone marrow is producing blood cells normally and you have fewer than 5% of the immature leukaemia cells in your bone marrow. If remission lasts indefinitely, you are said to be cured.

2.    Intensification 

More courses of chemotherapy once you’re in remission, to clear any remaining leukaemia cells. This phase may last several months. You will still need to stay in hospital during treatment, but you will probably have longer periods at home as long as you are well. 

3.    Maintenance

Less intensive treatment, usually with chemotherapy and steroids given over a longer period of time (often around 18 months for women and 3 years for men). This phase is to prevent the cancer coming back (relapse). You shouldn’t need to stay in hospital during maintenance, unless you get sick. The chemotherapy is usually given as tablets, or you may have a drip into your vein.  Your medical team may say you can go back to work and your normal activities during the maintenance stage. You will have regular check-ups and lumbar punctures to check your response to treatment.

Read more about chemotherapy and its side-effects

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