Childhood Leukemia Overview

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Treating Leukemia in Children TOPICS

Radiation treatment for childhood leukemia

Radiation therapy uses high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells. It is not always needed to treat leukemia, but it can be used in different situations:

Radiation therapy is much like getting an x-ray, but the radiation is stronger. The procedure itself is painless, but some younger children might need to be sedated to make sure they don’t move during the treatment. Each treatment lasts only a few minutes, although the setup time – getting your child into place for treatment – usually takes longer.

Possible side effects

The possible short-term side effects depend on where the radiation is aimed. It can cause sunburn-like skin changes and hair loss in the treated area. Radiation to the belly (abdomen) can sometimes cause nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. Radiation to large parts of the body can cause fatigue and an increased risk of infection.

Longer-term side effects are also possible and are described in the section “Long-term effects of treatment for childhood leukemia.”

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


Last Medical Review: 05/13/2015
Last Revised: 05/13/2015