What happens after treatment for childhood leukemia?
Following treatment for childhood leukemia, the main concerns for most families are the immediate and long-term effects of the leukemia and its treatment, and concerns about possible recurrence of the cancer.
It is certainly understandable to want to put the leukemia and its treatment behind you and to get back to a life that doesn't revolve around the cancer. But it's important to realize that follow-up care is a central part of this process that offers your child the best chance for recovery and long-term survival.
For several years after treatment, regular follow-up exams will be very important. The doctors will continue to watch for possible signs of leukemia, as well as for short-term and long-term side effects of treatment.
Checkups typically include careful physical exams, lab tests, and sometimes, imaging tests. These checkups will usually occur monthly during the first year, and then less often for at least 5 years after therapy. After that time, most children see their doctor at least yearly for a checkup.
If leukemia does recur, it is most often while the child is still being treated or within a year or so after finishing treatment. It is unusual for ALL or AML to return if there are no signs of the disease within the next 2 years.
A benefit of follow-up care is that it gives you a chance to discuss questions and concerns that arise during and after your child's recovery. For example, almost any cancer treatment can have side effects. Some may last for a few weeks to several months, but others can be permanent. It is important to report any new symptoms to the doctor right away, so that the cause can be found and treated, if needed.
Last Medical Review: 06/11/2012
Last Revised: 01/18/2013