Leukemia--Acute Lymphocytic

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Treating Leukemia - Acute Lymphocytic (ALL) in Adults TOPICS

How is acute lymphocytic leukemia treated?

This information represents the views of the doctors and nurses serving on the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Information Database Editorial Board. These views are based on their interpretation of studies published in medical journals, as well as their own professional experience.
The treatment information in this document is not official policy of the Society and is not intended as medical advice to replace the expertise and judgment of your cancer care team. It is intended to help you and your family make informed decisions, together with your doctor.
Your doctor may have reasons for suggesting a treatment plan different from these general treatment options. Don’t hesitate to ask him or her questions about your treatment options.

General treatment information

Adult acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) is not a single disease. It is really a group of related diseases, and patients with different subtypes of ALL may have different outlooks and responses to treatment.

After your cancer is diagnosed and staged, your cancer care team will discuss your treatment options with you. Choosing a treatment plan is an important decision, so it is important to take time and think about your choices. Treatment options for each patient are based on the leukemia subtype as well as certain prognostic features (described in “How is acute lymphocytic leukemia classified?”).

The main types of treatment used for ALL are:

Other treatments such as surgery, radiation therapy, or monoclonal antibodies, may be used in special circumstances.

Treatment of ALL typically lasts for about 2 years. It is often intense, especially in the first few months of treatment, so it is important that you are treated in a center that has experience with this disease.

You may have different types of doctors on your treatment team. The doctor in charge or your team will most likely be a hematologist, a doctor who specializes in treating blood diseases, including leukemia. Many other specialists may be involved in your care as well, including nurse practitioners, nurses, nutrition specialists, social workers, and other health professionals.

It is important to discuss all of your treatment options, including their goals and possible side effects, with your doctors to help make the decision that best fits your needs. It’s also very important to ask questions if there is anything you’re not sure about. You can find some good questions to ask in the section “What should you ask your doctor about acute lymphocytic leukemia?

Treatment for ALL usually needs to start very soon after it is diagnosed, but if time permits, it is often a good idea to seek a second opinion. A second opinion might give you more information and help you feel confident about your chosen treatment plan.

The next few sections describe the types of treatments used for ALL. This is followed by a discussion of the typical treatment approach for ALL in adults.

Last Medical Review: 12/02/2014
Last Revised: 01/12/2015