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Because leukemia cells spread so widely throughout the bone marrow and to many other organs, surgery cannot cure this type of cancer.

Rarely, an operation may be done to remove the spleen. If leukemia spreads to the spleen it can cause the spleen to become large enough to press on other organs and cause problems. If this happens, chemo or radiation may be used to try to shrink the spleen. If that doesn't solve the problem, removing the spleen can give relief, but it does not cure the leukemia. Another reason to remove the spleen is to improve blood cell counts. One of the spleen's jobs is to remove worn-out blood cells from the bloodstream. If the spleen gets too big, it may become too active in removing blood cells, leading to a shortage of red blood cells or platelets.

Most people have no problem living without a spleen. But the risk for certain infections is increased, so doctors often recommend that specific vaccines be given before the spleen is removed.

Last Medical Review: 02/03/2015
Last Revised: 02/23/2016