Leukemia--Chronic Myeloid (Myelogenous)

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Treating Leukemia - Chronic Myeloid (CML) TOPICS

Radiation therapy for chronic myeloid 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 patients with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), 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 helped by chemotherapy, radiation therapy to shrink the spleen may be an option.

Radiation therapy can also be useful in treating pain from bone damage caused by the growth of leukemia cells within the bone marrow.

Radiation therapy is sometimes given in low doses to the whole body, just before a stem cell transplant (see the section, "Stem cell transplant for chronic myeloid leukemia").

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. If the radiation is aimed at the areas of the head or neck, the inside lining of your mouth and throat may become red and irritated - this is called mucositis. Radiation to the stomach or intestines can cause nausea and vomiting and/or diarrhea. If large parts of the body are treated with radiation, the bone marrow may be affected, leading to low blood counts. Symptoms may include fatigue, an increased risk of infection, and easy bruising or bleeding.

More information on radiation therapy can be found in the radiation section of our website, or in our document Understanding Radiation Therapy: A Guide for Patients and Families.

Last Medical Review: 09/23/2013
Last Revised: 02/10/2014