The main treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) is chemotherapy (chemo). This means you have anti-cancer drugs to destroy the leukaemia cells. You will also have drugs called steroids. These help the chemotherapy to work.
The aim of treatment for ALL is to get rid of leukaemia cells. This is so the bone marrow can work normally again.
The treatment can cause unpleasant side effects, so sometimes it may feel hard to deal with. But you will be in close contact with the hospital when you are most likely to feel unwell. The staff can help if things get tough. Don’t feel you have to be brave. Be honest about how you are feeling with your doctors and nurses. They can give you medicines to help.
ALL treatment has three phases:
- getting rid of the leukaemia – this is called remission induction
- keeping leukaemia away – this includes three blocks of treatment called consolidation, interim maintenance and delayed intensification therapy
- stopping leukaemia from coming back long term – this is called continuing or maintenance therapy.
You usually start chemotherapy quickly after finding out you have ALL.
Sometimes, you may have the option of treatment for ALL as part of a cancer research trial. Cancer research trials try to find new and better treatments for cancer. The trials test new treatments, such as new chemotherapy drugs or targeted therapies. Or they may look at new ways of giving existing treatments.
Whether or not you take part in a cancer research trial is your decision. If you decide not to , you do not have to give a reason. But it can help to talk to the hospital staff about any questions or worries you have. This means they can give you the best advice. There will be no change in the way the staff treat you. They will offer you the usual treatment for your situation.
To begin with, you will be in hospital for your treatment. If you are 18 or younger, you will have treatment in a specialist Principal Treatment Centre (PTC) for teenagers and young adults (TYA). If you are 19 or older, you can go to a PTC. Or you can choose to go to another hospital called a TYA designated hospital, if it is closer to home.