- How is chronic lymphocytic leukemia treated?
- Chemotherapy for chronic lymphocytic leukemia
- Monoclonal antibodies for chronic lymphocytic leukemia
- Surgery for chronic lymphocytic leukemia
- Radiation therapy for chronic lymphocytic leukemia
- Leukapheresis for chronic lymphocytic leukemia
- Bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cell transplant for chronic lymphocytic leukemia
- Clinical trials for chronic lymphocytic leukemia
- Complementary and alternative therapies for chronic lymphocytic leukemia
- Treatment of chronic lymphocytic leukemia by risk group
- Treating hairy cell leukemia
- More treatment information about chronic lymphocytic leukemia
Radiation therapy for chronic lymphocytic leukemia
Radiation therapy is treatment with high-energy rays or particles to destroy cancer cells. Radiation therapy is usually not part of the main treatment for people with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), but it is used in certain situations.
Patients may have symptoms if swollen internal organs (such as an enlarged spleen) press on other organs. For instance, pressure against the stomach may affect appetite. If these symptoms are not improved by chemotherapy, radiation therapy to help shrink the organ is often a good option.
Radiation therapy can also be useful in treating pain from bone damage caused by leukemia cells growing in the bone marrow.
Radiation therapy is sometimes given in low doses to the whole body, just before a stem cell transplant (see the section called "Bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cell transplant for chronic lymphocytic leukemia").
External beam radiation therapy, in which a machine delivers a beam of radiation to a specific part of the body, is the type of radiation used most often for CLL. Before your treatment starts, the radiation team will take careful measurements to determine the correct angles for aiming the radiation beams and the proper dose of radiation. Radiation therapy is much like getting an x-ray, but the radiation is more intense. The procedure itself is painless. Each treatment lasts only a few minutes, although the setup time -- getting you into place for treatment -- usually takes longer.
The main short-term side effects of radiation therapy depend on where the radiation is aimed. Sunburn-like skin changes in the treated area are possible. Radiation to the abdomen can sometimes cause nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. For radiation that includes large parts of the body, the effects may include fatigue and an increased risk of infection.
Last Medical Review: 04/22/2012
Last Revised: 01/18/2013