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How to Treat Leukemia: Which Forms of Treatment Are Effective?

Medically reviewed by John Paul Abrina, MD · Oncology · Davao Doctors Hospital

Written by Jan Alwyn Batara · Updated Jul 27, 2022

How to Treat Leukemia: Which Forms of Treatment Are Effective?

These days, with the advancements made in medical science, figuring out how to treat leukemia is not as daunting a task like it once was. However, this doesn’t mean that treating leukemia is a straightforward process. Learn how to treat leukemia here.

One of the biggest hurdles is that leukemia is a type of cancer that affects a person’s blood cells. This means that cancer can easily spread throughout the body, and doctors can’t simply “cut out” any cancerous tissue. Because of this, doctors usually need to consider a combination of treatments in order to ensure that the patient not only gets cured, but also remains strong and healthy throughout the treatment process.

How to Treat Leukemia: Effective Forms of Treatment

There are a number of different methods that doctors use to treat leukemia. Some of these methods are also used to treat other types of cancer, while others are more specialized to tackle leukemia specifically, such as a bone marrow transplant.

Here are some common ways of how to treat leukemia:


Chemotherapy is the primary way to treat leukemia. Incidentally, it’s also one of the most common methods used to treat cancer.

Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. The drugs used in chemotherapy usually come in pill form, or are injected intravenously.

Depending on the type of cancer, a single type or multiple types of drugs might be used. In the case of the latter, this is also known as combination chemotherapy.

Despite being an effective form of treatment, chemotherapy is not without its downsides. This is because the drugs used in chemotherapy can’t tell the difference between healthy cells and cancer cells.

The common side effects of chemotherapy include fatigue, weakness, nausea, dizziness, fever, hair loss, and others. But rest assured, your doctor will be informing you of any possible side effects, and they will give you advice on what you can do to mitigate it.


Radiotherapy is a possible method to treat leukemia as well as other cancers. As the name suggests, radiotherapy uses radiation to kill cancer cells.

What the radiation does is it damages the DNA, or genetic material, contained in cancer cells. This prevents cancer cells from multiplying, and eventually, they start to die off.

While radiotherapy isn’t typically used in cases of leukemia, it is used if the cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body, such as the brain, lungs, and kidneys. Just like chemotherapy, it can also cause side effects such as fatigue, weakness, nausea, hair loss, etc.


Immunotherapy is a way to treat leukemia that uses the body’s immune system. This takes advantage of chemicals known as immune checkpoint inhibitors, which essentially puts your immune system into overdrive.

Normally, the immune system has checkpoints, which prevent it from attacking the body’s own cells that also includes cancer cells. When a person is given immune checkpoint inhibitors, the immune system is now able to attack cancer cells.

Immunotherapy is also used to prevent a person from relapsing, because it strengthens the body’s protection against future cancer.

Bone marrow transplant

Bone marrow transplants are also used to treat leukemia, usually alongside other forms of treatment.

This is because chemotherapy and immunotherapy can sometimes kill off healthy cells, and in the case of leukemia, bone marrow cells can be killed off. Bone marrow is important because this is where blood cells are created.

In a bone marrow transplant, stem cells are taken from either the patient before chemotherapy or from a donor. These cells are then frozen, and once the treatment is done, the cells will be infused into the patient’s bone marrow. This helps create new bone marrow and helps replenish the body’s supply of healthy red blood cells.

Key Takeaways

Doctors today better understand leukemia and cancer, and know what treatments can help people get better. The available leukemia treatments these days are the best that medicine can offer. Consult your doctor for the best plan of treatment for your case.

Learn more about leukemia here. 


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

John Paul Abrina, MD

Oncology · Davao Doctors Hospital

Written by Jan Alwyn Batara · Updated Jul 27, 2022

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