Treatment Options for Leukemia
MEDICAL ANIMATION TRANSCRIPT: You or someone you care about may have been diagnosed with leukemia. This video will help you understand some of the available treatment options. Leukemia is a cancer that originates from blood cells while they are forming, usually white blood cells. In leukemia, blood-forming cells in the bone marrow make many cancerous white blood cells that don't work properly. This weakens your immune system. Your doctor will make a treatment plan specifically for your leukemia. It will be based on the type of leukemia, your symptoms, age, overall state of health, and other factors. Treatment options may include one or more of the following. chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapy, immunotherapy, and stem cell transplant. Chemotherapy uses drugs that travel through the bloodstream to kill fast-growing cells like cancer cells. Another treatment option is radiation therapy. It uses radiation to kill cancer cells or stop them from growing. The target area of the radiation varies depending on the stage and type of leukemia. The type of radiation therapy used for leukemia is external radiation. It uses a machine that aims radiation at the cancer from outside the body. Target therapy uses drugs that aim for specific targets or markers on cancer cells. Since cancer cells may have more of these markers than normal cells do, targeted therapy may affect cancer cells more than normal cells. When targeted therapy drugs attach to the markers on cancer cells, the cancer cells may stop growing and dividing. Immunotherapy can help your immune system fight leukemia. For example, monoclonal antibodies are laboratory-produced versions of proteins that your immune system makes to fight bacteria, viruses, chemicals, and other foreign substances. Monoclonal antibodies can be designed to attach to markers on leukemia cells and become part of the immune system attacking the leukemia. When attached to immune cells, monoclonal antibodies can help recognize and destroy the leukemia cells. A stem cell transplant replaces blood-forming cells that were damaged or destroyed during your cancer treatment with either your or a healthy donor's stem cells. First, healthy stem cells are collected from you or a donor. Then the stem cells are stored while you receive treatment for cancer such as chemotherapy or radiation to kill all your blood cells. After these treatments are complete, the healthy stem cells are given to you. In your body, these stem cells provide a healthy supply of future blood cells. Your doctor may prescribe a combination of the treatments we've discussed or different treatment options than those mentioned here. As you deal with a diagnosis of leukemia, continue to talk to your doctor and your cancer care team.