Benefits and disadvantages of treatment for ALL

The possible benefits of treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia 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. It can involve spending long periods of time in hospital – often several weeks. You will have side effects, but most of these are temporary and can usually be helped with medicines. But some effects of treatment may be permanent. For some people intensive chemotherapy will cure the leukaemia, but this doesn’t always happen. Some people experience the difficult side effects of treatment without being cured.

Some people may not be fit enough to have intensive treatment or choose not to have it. They may have lower doses of chemotherapy. The aim is to control the leukaemia rather than to get rid of it completely. You may be able to have this treatment as an outpatient, so spend less time hospital. But the chances of the leukaemia going into remission and staying in remission are lower.

Some people choose not to have treatment to try to cure or control the leukaemia. You can still have 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.