Treatment for leukemia is complex. It varies with the type of leukemia, and it is not the same for all patients. The treatment depends not only on the type of leukemia, but also on certain features of the leukemia cells, the extent of the disease, and whether the leukemia has been treated before. It also depends on the patient's age, symptoms and general health. The doctor plans the treatment to fit each patient's needs. Whenever possible, patients should be treated at a medical center that has doctors who have experience in treating leukemia.
Acute leukemia needs to be treated right away. The goal of treatment is to bring about remission. Then, when there is no evidence of the disease, more therapy may be given to prevent a relapse. Many people with acute leukemia can be cured.
Chronic leukemia patients who do not have symptoms may not require immediate treatment. However, they should have frequent checkups so the doctor can see whether the disease is progressing. When treatment is needed, it can often control the disease and its symptoms. However, chronic leukemia can seldom be cured.
When a person is diagnosed with leukemia, shock and stress are natural reactions. These feelings may make it difficult to think of every question to ask the doctor. Also, patients may find it hard to remember everything the doctor says. Often, it helps to make a list of questions to ask the doctor.
Here are some questions patients and their families may want to ask the doctor before treatment begins:
What type of leukemia is it?
What are the treatment choices? Which do you recommend? Why?
Would a clinical trial be appropriate?
What are the expected benefits of each kind of treatment?
If I have pain, how will you help me?
Will I have to change my normal activities?
How long will the treatment last?
What is the treatment likely to cost? How can I find out what my insurance will cover?