Chronic lymphocytic leukemia is a cancer of the blood that can cause patients and oncologists a great deal of frustration. Because this is a cancer that often develops slowly but continues to recur even after treatment, the focus of many treatment protocols have the primary goal of remission, both in the short-term and long-term. If you have been diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, get to know some of the treatment options that are available to help you get feeling healthier and get your cancer into remission.
Chemotherapy and Immunotherapy
The most common treatment for chronic lymphocytic leukemia is a combination of chemotherapy and immunotherapy. Chemotherapy is a form of cancer treatment that involves the use of medications that are taken either orally or (more commonly) through intravenous injections. These medications attack cells that are rapidly reproducing, such as the cancer cells of chronic lymphocyctic leukemia.
Immunotherapy, on the other hand, is a treatment that is designed to work with the body's immune system to fight the cancer in a different way than chemotherapy. While chemo drugs attack all rapidly reproducing cells (which accounts for hair loss from the treatment), immunotherapy specifically works to target the lymphocytes that are cancerous in the bloodstream.
Immunotherapy uses drugs and treatments to encourage the person's natural immune system to turn on those problem cells. It can also use those drugs to artificially serve the function of the immune system and attack those cancer cells.
Targeted Therapy Alone
Recent research and treatment development has made it possible for patients dealing with chronic lymphocytic leukemia to pursue treatment that uses targeted therapy drugs rather than immunotherapy combined with chemotherapy. These new targeted therapy drugs are highly effective, generally in patients who have had limited or no success with other treatments for their chronic lymphocytic leukemia.
By allowing patients to try targeted therapy without continued chemotherapy, patients can enjoy a higher quality of life while going through treatment, avoiding the negative side effects of chemotherapy like fatigue, nausea, and hair loss. Targeted therapies are designed to interfere with specific genes in the cancer cells, preventing them from being able to continue growing and replicating.
Sometimes these targeted therapies are also combined with immunotherapy so that the growth of cancer cells can be stopped with the targeted therapy drugs, and the existing cells can be destroyed using immunotherapy.
Now that you know a few of the treatment options that are available for your chronic lymphocytic leukemia, you can better plan for your future and talk to your oncologist about your personalized treatment program. Remember too, that researchers are always looking for newer and more effective ways to treat chronic lymphocytic leukemia, so there may be other options coming available in the near future.
For more information, contact Southwest Oncology Centers or a similar organization.