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Leukemia Treatment and Radiation


Leukemia is a kind of blood or a bone marrow cancer. An abnormal increase in the white blood cells causes leukemia. However leukemia is a diverse term and covers a wide range of diseases. 


Leukemia Treatment  


For those who are affected with leukemia, the best suggested treatment is radiation therapy. This treatment is also known as radiotherapy. This treatment uses high energy X-rays to combat malignancy in blood cells. These rays are made to enter body to destroy the cancer cells.  For those affected with leukemia, radiation therapy is done alone or in combination with other types of treatment like chemotherapy. 


For a person who has contracted leukemia, radiation therapy can be given internally or externally.   

  • When the radiation is given with the help of a machine that remains outside the body, it is called as external radiation. This machine radiates high energy x-rays that destroy the cancer cells. 
  • When the radiation reaches inside the body with the help of wires, seeds, catheters and needles it is called internal radiation 

The type of cancer decides whether the person needs an external radiation or an internal radiation. 

Benefits of External Radiation Therapy for Leukemia 

  • It is a fast and painless procedure that lasts for merely few minutes. 

  • In contrast to chemotherapy, that influences whole body, external radiation therapy is focused over specific area. 

  • By intending tumors with high doses of strong radiation, external radiation therapy helps in minimizing damage to healthy tissues 

Leukemia Radiation Therapy 

Radiation therapy for leukemia patients is given in two different ways. In some cases, the doctor directs the radiation over specific area where there is a leukemia cells have got collected like testicles or spleen. In other leukemia cases, patients may be given radiation over the whole body. This way of radiation therapy is known as ‘total-body irradiation’ and is given prior to bone marrow transplant.  

Following are some of the instances where leukemia radiation therapy is used:  

  • It is used for treating leukemia when it has propagated to spinal fluid, brain or to the testicles. 
  • Whole body is subjected to radiation before peripheral blood stem cell transplant. 
  • Radiation therapy is also advised when there is need to shrink the size of a tumor. This condition arises when large sized tumor starts interfering with smooth functioning of trachea (wind pipe) and starts causing problem in breathing. In such case, often radiation therapy is used along with chemotherapy.  
  • Radiation therapy is also used to diminish pain in that part of bone that has been severely affected by leukemia. This happens when chemotherapy fails to render desired results.  

Side effects of Leukemia Radiation Therapy 


These are the common side effects that a person can experience during the time of the treatment. These issues cease once the therapy is over. They are  

  • Reduction in the blood count which might increase the chances of bleeding or infection 
  • Exhausted or low energy levels 
  • Itching or redness in the area that is exposed to the radiation. That area would appear to be sun burnt.  
  • Hair loss