Treatment of Blood Cancer (Leukemia)

Treatment of Blood Cancer (Leukemia)

    Treatment of Blood Cancer (Leukemia)

    Determining the specific subtype of blood cancer that has progressed is the first and most important step in the treatment of leukemia. A comprehensive blood test facilitates the identification of any cancer signals present in the blood. Leukemia can be diagnosed by observing an increase in a particular type of leukemia cell known as blasts.

    A bone marrow biopsy can be used to assess the presence of cancerous cells in the bone marrow. It is important to determine the exact subtype of leukemia being treated for the success of the treatment. There are several subtypes of leukemia, each requiring a different treatment strategy.

    When it comes to treatment, chemotherapy is often the first option that comes to mind. Cancer cells caused by leukemia can be killed with the use of chemical drugs administered during chemotherapy. The types of chemotherapy drugs used, the doses administered, and the methods of administration vary depending on the type of leukemia being treated.

    Cancer cells, like the underlying cause of leukemia, are sometimes targeted by a treatment called radiation therapy, also known as radiotherapy, to destroy or severely damage these cells. Radiation therapy can be administered locally or systemically, depending on the patient's needs. Radiation therapy is frequently used in the preparation process for stem cell transplantation.

    In the treatment of these patients with biological agents and immunotherapy drugs, the aim is to educate the immune system to independently recognize cancer cells. With these treatments, defense cells can now more easily detect malignant cells and facilitate their elimination. This leads to the destruction of cancer cells.

    Among medical experts, there is a consensus that bone marrow transplantation is one of the most effective treatments for leukemia. Stem cell transplantation involves replacing the diseased marrow with healthy marrow obtained from the patient, a sibling, a close relative, or a donor with a similar tissue type to the patient's.

    Bone marrow transplantation can assist a patient suffering from a condition affecting the marrow by replacing the diseased marrow with healthy marrow. Prior to this procedure, the affected marrow is treated with high doses of chemotherapy and radiation to eliminate it. Subsequently, stem cells that produce blood are injected into the patient's marrow in the hope of restoring its normal function.

    The recipient of a bone marrow transplant may experience symptoms such as a sudden drop in blood pressure, headache, nausea, vomiting, discomfort, shortness of breath, fever, and chills. In addition to these concerns, there is a potential for more serious complications arising from bone marrow transplants. Factors such as a person's age, overall health, the disease being treated, and the type of transplant received can influence the frequency of occurrence of these severe side effects.

    Graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), also known as donor-related graft-versus-host disease, is a dangerous condition characterized by the donor's immune system attacking the recipient's body after transplantation. Organ rejection and bleeding or damage are two potential problems that can occur after transplantation and have the potential to be catastrophic. GVHD is another potentially life-threatening complication.

    The treatment of leukemia is planned and carried out by specialists trained in hematology and oncology. The specific type of leukemia and the unique characteristics of the patient can influence the treatment administered.

    Extra attention and support are particularly important during chemotherapy treatment, especially for patients diagnosed with acute leukemia. The patient's average blood cells are affected by chemotherapy drugs, making them more susceptible to infections, bleeding, and anemia. Therefore, in addition to chemotherapy, the patient may be given antibiotics and, if necessary, blood transfusions and other blood products. All of these treatments can be administered to the patient.

    Antibiotics, antifungal treatment, antiemetic drugs, and other treatments for nausea and vomiting are just a few of the options available to medical professionals.

    Drugs based on tyrosine kinase inhibitor imatinib have successfully fought against altered genes and products, leading to innovative new treatments for individuals with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). These treatments are considered groundbreaking. These drugs differ from the therapies offered by chemotherapy because they have fewer side effects.

    Acute and chronic leukemias are two of the numerous types of blood cancers, each with its own barriers in terms of diagnosis and treatment. Being aware of these diseases is important as early diagnosis enhances the effectiveness of treatment. While leukemia mortality rates are decreasing and survival rates are increasing as a result of advancements in diagnosis and treatment, it is important to remember that leukemia is a potentially life-threatening disease that requires serious attention.

    In 1975, only thirty percent of leukemia patients survived for five years after diagnosis; now, this rate is well over sixty percent. The main reason for this is the ability to diagnose the condition early. If you or someone you know is showing symptoms of leukemia, it is advisable to seek treatment from a specialist at a local medical institution as soon as possible. It is recommended not to delay making this request.

    How is Leukemia Diagnosed?

    Diagnosing leukemia involves several tests and procedures that require a significant amount of time to request and complete before a definitive diagnosis can be made. Several diagnostic tests need to be performed to determine the specific nature and progression of the disease.

    During a physical examination, the doctor will look for leukemia symptoms such as anemia, swollen lymph nodes, splenomegaly (enlarged spleen), and hepatomegaly (enlarged liver).

    Results from metabolic and biochemical tests, including complete blood count, liver function tests, and coagulation values, are part of the leukemia diagnostic process. Additionally, peripheral blood smear and bone marrow examination are equally supportive diagnostic procedures for leukemia.

    A crucial and necessary test for diagnosing acute leukemia is a bone marrow aspiration biopsy. In most cases, a simple examination of the patient's peripheral blood is sufficient to diagnose chronic leukemia, and further biopsy tests may not be necessary. Individuals with chronic myeloid leukemia can access diagnostic tests that determine the presence of the BCR-ABL gene.

    In most cases, a bone marrow sample will be taken from the hip bone. After extracting a small amount of bone marrow from the affected area using a large needle, the sample is sent to a laboratory to be examined for the presence of cancer cells.

    What Are the Symptoms of Leukemia?

    The most noticeable symptoms of leukemia can be compared to those of other diseases that affect the bone marrow. These symptoms include fatigue, pallor (pale skin), weakness, and shortness of breath due to anemia.

    Leukemia can manifest in various ways, including a weakened immune system, infections caused by the nose, mouth, and gums, unexpected bleeding under the skin, bruising, and small, red rashes on the skin (also known as petechiae).

    Other symptoms may include loss of appetite, weight loss, night sweats, persistent fever despite treatment, bone pain, enlarged lymph nodes in the neck and armpits, and swelling in the face, mouth, and abdominal area in acute leukemia. Acute leukemia can also cause pain in the bones.


    The content of the page is for informational purposes only, please consult your doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

    Aynur UğurBİLGİN

    Prof. M.D.

    Aynur Uğur BİLGİN

    Koru Ankara Hospital