Treatment for patients diagnosed with ALL varies depending on the patient’s age. Generally speaking, there are three kinds of treatments that are done for patients who have been diagnosed with ALL. The first treatment is chemotherapy. This kind of treatment involves the use of drugs which are introduced into the body of the patient via oral or intravenous means. Chemotherapy treatments would often require the patient to be admitted in the hospital throughout the treatment procedure. This is due to the fact that while a patient undergoes chemotherapy, the risk of the patient to develop an infection increases.
This is because when a patient undergoes chemotherapy, the drugs administered does not only attack abnormal cell growth found in the body, but also normal cells thriving within the patient’s body (American Cancer Society; College of American Pathologists; National Cancer Institute, LeMaistre and Stein; University of California San Francisco Medical Center). Another form of treatment used for patients diagnosed with ALL is radiation therapy. In this case, heavy doses of x-rays are used to destroy abnormal cancer cells that have accumulated in the body.
This form of treatment is commonly used in cases of ALL where the cancer cells have accumulated in the brain, spinal cord and reproductive organs of the individual. In some cases, the use of radiation therapy has been found to help relieve the pain brought about by the abnormal cancer cells spreading to other bones in the body (American Cancer Society; College of American Pathologists; National Cancer Institute, LeMaistre and Stein; University of California San Francisco Medical Center). The last kind of treatment used to help patients diagnosed with ALL is through a bone marrow transplant.
Since the abnormal blood cells found in patients diagnosed with ALL are produced within the bone marrow of the patient, the use of a bone marrow transplant replaces the bone marrow of the patient to allow the growth of healthy normal blood cells to take place. Recently, the process of bone marrow transplant has been replaced with a procedure called stem cell transplant. In both cases, the patient is first given heavy doses of chemotherapy drugs in order to destroy the abnormal bone marrow cells found inside the patient.
This is then replaced with healthier bone marrow collected from a donor and administered through the form of a blood transfusion (American Cancer Society; College of American Pathologists; National Cancer Institute, LeMaistre and Stein; University of California San Francisco Medical Center). Through the advancement in medical science and technology utilized in the treatment of patients with ALL and other forms of leukemia, the rate of patients surviving this form of cancer have steadily increased.
While this may be the case, recent studies have found that the treatments now used to cure ALL have long-term side effects particularly among children and adolescents in the later part of their lives. The onset and severity of these long-term side effects among children and adolescents who have survived ALL greatly depends on the overall health of the child or adolescent, as well as the type of the treatment utilized, the length of period of the treatment used, the gender of the patient and the age of the patient at the time that the treatment was administered.
These long-term side effects that are found among children that have been treated and survived ALL include cognitive effects, physical effects and psychological effects (The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society 1-2). Some children and adolescents that have survived ALL have been found to develop a number of learning, or cognitive, disabilities. The onset of these effects may be as immediate as during the period of the treatment procedure or years after.
Among the common learning disabilities resulting from a variety of different treatments utilized among patients diagnosed with ALL include poor concentration skills, problem solving and analytical skills, motor coordination, and information processing. Physical side effects found among survivors of ALL include increased periods of fatigue, delays in physical development and growth, dysfunction of the thyroid gland, hearing loss and, in rare cases, the development of another type of cancer (The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society 2-3).