- 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 (ALL)
- Treatment of children with acute myeloid leukemia (AML)
- Treatment of children with acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL)
- Treatment of children with juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia (JMML)
- Treatment of children with chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML)
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:
- It can be used to try to prevent or treat cancer in the brain or in the testicles.
- It can be used, 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 stem cell transplant. (See “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 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: 02/03/2016