Since ALL is an aggressive condition that develops rapidly, the treatment usually begins a few days after the diagnosis and is carried out in three stages:
STAGE 1: INDUCTION – the aim of this initial stage is to kill the leukaemia cells in the bone marrow, restore the balance of cells in the blood and resolve any symptoms the patient might have.
STAGE 2: CONSOLIDATION – the aim of this stage is to kill the remaining leukaemia cells in the bone marrow and central nervous system.
STAGE 3: MAINTENANCE – this final stage involves taking regular doses of chemotherapy tablets to prevent leukaemia from returning.
STAGE 1: INDUCTION
This stage of treatment is carried out in a hospital as the patient might need regular blood transfusions since the blood doesn’t contain enough healthy blood cells. The patient is kept in a sterile environment as he/ she is more vulnerable to infections. This stage includes further treatments:
- Chemotherapy – pills or maybe as an injection as well. In some cases, to avoid repeated injections, drugs are administered through a flexible tube that goes into a vein in the chest.
- Steroid Therapy – administered to improve the effectiveness of chemotherapy.
STAGE 2: CONSOLIDATION
The treatment during this stage involves regular injections of chemotherapy medication on an outpatient basis. However, if the symptoms suddenly get worse or if the patient develops an infection, short overnight stays in the hospital are required. This phase of treatment lasts several months.
STAGE 3: MAINTENANCE
This phase of treatment is like an insurance against the possibility of the leukaemia returning. It involves regular chemotherapy (tablets) with regular check-ups to monitor the effectiveness of the treatment. This phase of treatment can often last for two years.
Further, in some cases, the Haematologist may opt for other treatments as well:
- Radiotherapy – high doses of controlled radiation are used to kill cancerous cells and is used to treat ALL if it has spread to the nervous system or brain and to prepare the body for a bone marrow or a stem cell transplant.
- Stem Cell and Bone Marrow Transplants – For more information, read Stem Cell Transplant