- How is childhood leukemia treated?
- Immediate treatment of childhood leukemia
- Surgery for childhood leukemia
- Radiation treatment for childhood leukemia
- Chemotherapy for childhood leukemia
- Targeted therapy for childhood leukemia
- High-dose chemotherapy and stem cell transplant for childhood leukemia
- Treatment of children with acute lymphocytic leukemia
- Treatment of children with acute myeloid leukemia
- Treatment of children with acute promyelocytic leukemia
- Treatment of children with juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia
- Treatment of children with chronic myelogenous leukemia
- More information on treating childhood leukemia
- Status of acute leukemia after treatment
- Clinical trials for childhood leukemia
- Complementary and alternative therapies for childhood leukemia
Radiation treatment for childhood leukemia
Radiation therapy is the use of high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells. For children with acute leukemia, radiation might be used to try to prevent or treat cancer in the brain or in the testicles. It can also be used, though rarely, to shrink a tumor that is pressing on the windpipe. But chemotherapy is often used instead since it may work faster.
Radiation to the whole body is often an important part of treatment before a bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cell transplant (see the section, “High-dose chemotherapy and stem cell transplant for childhood leukemia”).
Radiation therapy is much like getting an x-ray, but the radiation is stronger. The procedure itself is painless, but some younger children may 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.
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. For radiation that includes large parts of the body, the effects may include 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.”
Last Medical Review: 06/29/2012
Last Revised: 01/21/2013