The benefits and disadvantages of treatment for ALL

The possible benefits of treatment vary depending on each individual situation.

Many people will be offered intensive chemotherapy. This means chemotherapy drugs given at full dose. Intensive chemotherapy aims to cure the leukaemia and involves spending long periods of time in hospital – often several weeks. You are likely to have side effects, but most of these are temporary and can usually be controlled with medicines. However, some effects, such as infertility, may be permanent. For some people intensive chemotherapy will cure the leukaemia, but others may not respond to the treatment. This means that some people may experience the difficult side effects of treatment without any of the benefits.

Some people may not be fit enough to have intensive treatment and some people may choose not to have it. Instead, they may have lower doses of chemotherapy to control the leukaemia rather than to get rid of it completely. This treatment can often be given as an outpatient, so less time is spent in hospital. The chances of the leukaemia going into remission and staying in remission are lower with this treatment.

Some people choose not to have treatment to try to cure or control the leukaemia. In this situation, you can still be given treatments to help control your symptoms. These may include short courses of chemotherapy or steroids. This is called supportive or palliative care.

Your haematologist is the best person to discuss your treatment choices with. Your specialist nurse can also talk over the possible benefits and side effects of treatment with you.

Back to Coming to your decision

Making your decision

If you’re struggling to come to a decision about treatment, try following these five steps.