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Radiation Therapy for Chronic Myeloid Leukemia

Radiation therapy is treatment with high-energy rays or particles to destroy cancer cells.

Radiation is seldom part of the treatment for patients with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), but it might be used in certain situations.

Some people have symptoms if swollen internal organs (such as an enlarged spleen) press on other organs. For instance, pressure against the stomach may affect appetite. If these symptoms are not helped by other treatments, radiation to shrink the spleen may be an option.

Radiation can also be useful in treating pain from bone damage caused by the growth of leukemia cells within the bone marrow.

Radiation therapy may be given in low doses to the whole body, as part of a stem cell transplant.

Side effects of radiation therapy

The main short-term side effects of radiation therapy depend on what part of the body is treated.

  • Fatigue (tiredness) is a common side effect (no matter what part of the body is treated).
  • Skin changes can occur in the treated area which range from mild redness to blistering and peeling.
  • If radiation is aimed at the head or neck, the inside lining of your mouth and throat may become red and irritated.
  • Radiation to the belly or pelvis can cause nausea and vomiting and/or diarrhea.

More information about radiation therapy

To learn more about how radiation is used to treat cancer, see Radiation Therapy.

To learn about some of the side effects listed here and how to manage them, see Managing Cancer-related Side Effects.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as editors and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Last Revised: June 19, 2018

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